Author's Note: Here is my second GTA single mission novelization, following Rub Out from Vice City. Please enjoy, I had fun writing it. And please R&R, as I thrive on reviews.

Grand Theft Auto III
The Exchange

Dark Sploosh

Claude wished that he could swear out loud, but he had to settle for doing it in his head. That bitch Catalina had gone too far. Not that she wasn't already on his death list, but now she had sky-rocketed herself to slot Number 1. This was all that Claude had left to do. The Mafia had cut all ties with him, the Yakuza was finished with both of it's leaders six-feet-under, and everyone else was too busy killing each other to deal with him. After this, he might be able to relax.

Goddamn it Maria, he thought angrily. Sure, her capture had presented a prime opportunity for him to get his revenge, but now he had to do it while worrying about a hostage, and he had to waste $500,000 besides. Not to mention that they would probably take all his guns away once he reached the mansion. All in all, the circumstances were less than ideal for the final showdown he had had in mind.

He was driving in a Yakuza Stinger, taken from the construction site. Lying on the seat to his right was the briefcase full of ransom money, and on top of that was a handgun, a MAC-10 sub machine gun, and a few grenades. Sighing, he slipped them all into his jacket, knowing that it wouldn't matter anyway once they were confiscated. He was also angry at the ridiculous amount of cash Catalina had demanded. Half a million dollars! He had barely been able to scrape it together from everything else he had done in Liberty. He hadn't even had enough left over to buy some body armor from Ammu-Nation. This was so stupid.

The mansion was just at the end of the street he was on. Claude pulled up to the front gates at looked at it. It was an impressive place alright. Large and lavish, made of stone with a red tile roof, and a few balconies for gazing out at the rest of the city. The front yard had a few tall pine trees planted, concealing the mansion from the outside world it seemed. Claude thought that it must have been a nice place to live. Catalina didn't deserve it.

He got out of the Stinger, briefcase in hand, and walked over to the two fat Colombians guarding the front gate. They were talking about something Claude didn't understand.

"...one of these Scarface idiots..."

Claude walked up to them and their conversation ended. Setting the case down, Claude raised up his hands as one of the guards patted him down. The man found the handgun, the MAC, and the grenades, and took them all away. Claude cursed mentally and then stepped through the now open gate.

Standing there was Catalina, in all of her psychotic splendor. To Catalina's left was Maria, being pulled away by Catalina's henchmen. She looked at Claude with a pleading expression before she was dragged out of sight.

"The real question is," started Catalina, her Spanish accent highlighting her malicious intent, "did you turn up to rescue Maria, or to get me back?"

Claude stared at her with hatred. It was a simple answer that he unfortunately couldn't put into words. He was here to kill Catalina, and save Maria if he could. He didn't really care for her the way she did for him, but she had helped him out at least, and she didn't deserve to die.

"Well, I got news for you!" Catalina continued. "Shooting you will be a pleasure, but dating you was only business! You are muy peccinno amigo."

Only business? Claude thought furiously. They had been together nine years. Nine years. And then one day she just decided out of the fucking blue to sell him out and shoot him? He should have paid more attention to how she treated that guy CJ all those years ago. He would have seen it coming if he had just looked for the signs. She was a psychotic bitch, nothing more to it. And it looked like she was going to finish the job and kill him for good, if he couldn't come up with a plan soon.

Catalina reached over and grabbed the briefcase. Opening it up, she smiled at the grand sum of money that was now hers.

"You have been a busy boy!" she said in mock respect. Closing the case, she looked at him with the grin of a person who knows they've won. "But you haven't learned, I'm not to be trusted! Kill the idiot!"

Catalina then walked away, and Claude found a gun pointed to his head. He had to think fast. There was only one thing to try. Time seemed to slow down as he took in every little detail. There were two guards up on the balconies of the mansion, each pointing an AK-47 assault rifle at him. Another guard, with a MAC-10, was standing at the front door. And behind Claude were two more MAC-wielding Colombians, standing by the gate. It was suicide, but it was the only way.

Claude brought up his right hand, pushing the man's handgun away from his head, before punching the man as hard as he could. The Colombian collapsed, unconscious, and Claude grabbed the handgun that had almost ended his life. He ran to his right, strafing like mad as the other guards opened fire. He managed to shoot both of the men at the front gate dead, and then he whirled around, blowing away the man at the front door before ducking behind a pine tree.

Bullet after bullet rained down upon his hiding spot from the guards on the balcony, like fire raining from heaven. There was a small garage to his left, and a Cartel Cruiser was sitting inside. It was his only way out.

He took a chance and ran for the garage, diving through the open door just as a bullet whizzed past him. He got up and looked around. It was a very plain garage, the blue Cruiser being the only object of interest. But a second look revealed a bullet-proof vest lying in an open crate near the wall.

My lucky day Claude thought happily as he grabbed the vest and quickly put it on. Zipping his jacket back up, he climbed into the Cruiser. The keys were in the ignition, and he turned them. There was also a MAC-10 lying on the dashboard. He set the pistol down on the seat and grabbed the SMG. He decided to at least listen to some music while he tried his next stupid idea to stay alive. He flipped to Flashback FM, his favorite station, and just in time too, it seemed. Push It to the Limit had just started.

Claude floored the pedal and peeled out of the garage. Sticking the MAC out the window, he opened fire at the two guards on the balcony. Caught off guard, the men were both killed, their bodies flipping over the railing and falling down to the ground. Claude got out of the Cruiser and collected an AK, as well as clips from both guards. He also grabbed all the SMG ammo off the remaining dead guards, as well as a few of his grenades off the guard who had frisked him earlier.

He walked up to the front doors of the mansion. He took a deep breath and prepared to storm inside. It was time to get Catalina...

But that thought was put on hold as the sound of helicopter blades whirling through the air caught Claude's attention. He looked up and saw a white chopper hovering above the mansion, the wind from the rotary blades whipping against his face. Sitting in the back was Catalina, smiling triumphantly, and Maria was there too. The helicopter then turned and sped off through the sky.

Oh shit... Claude thought. He ran back to the Cruiser and floored the pedal a second time. He tore out of the mansion grounds and sped off down the street after the helicopter. He wasn't sure where Catalina was going, but he couldn't lose her.

After a short time of flying about aimlessly, the chopper started to set down. Claude saw it touch down at the bottom of the Cochrane Dam.

Why the dam?

----------

Catalina laughed evilly. She didn't want to just escape with the money, she wanted that little mute shit Claude dead. Her bastard men had failed to kill him back at the mansion, but this time there would be no escape.

"Calling all Cartel members," she shouted into her radio, "get your assess equipped with the deadliest guns you can find and drive down to the Cochrane Dam. Claude Speed is coming, and he must not be allowed to live! As soon as he shows up, kill him! Kill him until you can't kill anymore of him! Because if he lives, you all die!"

She shut off the radio and laughed again. She would watch this show personally. She got out of the chopper, dragging Maria along behind her.

"Keep the chopper ready for lift-off, just in case," she ordered the pilot. She then pointed her gun at Maria's head and stared at the entrance to the dam, across the river. It wouldn't be long now...

----------

Claude reached the entrance to the bottom of the dam, and it was just as he had expected. Two Cartel Cruisers were blocking the entrance, and the drivers appeared to be armed with AKs. But, Claude thought, I have a truck. He burst forward as fast as he could. The Colombians had a moment to see one of their own trucks come barreling towards them before it was too late. Claude smashed dead-on between the trucks, pushing them aside. Each truck was forced onto it's respective owner, crushing them underneath. Claude smiled as he drove on down the path.

It curved to the left, and just up ahead was the lower dam proper, blocked off by another two Cruisers.

Oh well, thought Claude, I'll just tear through them again. But as he neared the barricade, he saw what the drivers were armed with. M4 Carbines. Screw everything else, those would turn his truck into Swiss cheese. There was only one thing to do.

He pulled the pin on one of his grenades and dropped it. As it rolled down under the seat, he opened the door and dove out of the car. He gritted his teeth as he hit the gravel, but the armor under his jacket shielded most of the impact. He looked up just in time to see the driverless truck slam into the barricade. A moment later, the grenade went off.

It was a spectacular explosion. All three trucks exploded at once, being lifted into the air by a massive fireball. One came back down, crushing a Colombian who hadn't been destroyed in the explosion. The other two trucks went spiraling down the cliff, plunging into the cold waters below.

Claude got to his feet and grinned, before pulling out his AK. There was still work to do.

He ran onto the dam, looking around. Amidst the twisted metal and burning rubber, there didn't appear to be much else except for a few large supply crates. As he rounded one of these crates, he saw three more Colombians up ahead. He took aim with his AK and blew all three of them away before they had a chance to react.

He ran forwards, and just ahead was the stairs leading up to where Catalina's chopper was. He was so eager to finish things that Claude neglected to see the Colombian with the AK on the top of the structure. A string of shots sounded out, and Claude fell like he had been punched, hard, in the stomach. He was sent spinning to the ground, and he puked. There was blood in the vomit. He gingerly felt around his stomach, and knew that the body armor had saved his life. Getting shakily to his feet, he looked up at the Colombian who had shot him. The idiot was too busy dancing about victoriously like an idiot to realize that Claude was still alive. Claude ended the man's dance with an AK bullet to the skull.

The AK was empty, so he dropped it and pulled out the MAC. He hoped there wasn't much resistance left...

----------

Catalina's face twisted in rage. They had failed to kill him again!

"Damn you! You are all fucking worthless, all of you!" she swore to her men. She ordered two of her men to guard Maria, and then climbed back into the chopper.

"Get this thing airborne!" she demanded, and then rummaged around, as if looking for something.

"What are you doing?" the pilot asked as the chopper lifted into the air.

"Does this bird have any weapons?" she asked.

"There's a rocket launcher behind your seat, I think."

Catalina reached behind her seat and pulled out the long, cylindrical, green weapon. She was going to finish Claude off, once and for all.

----------

Just as Claude reached the top of the steps, he saw the chopper lift off into the air. He fired at it with the MAC, but the bullets just bounced off harmlessly. The chopper sped off, and Claude saw two more of Catalina's men, standing in front of Maria. Claude fired at them, killing them both. He ran over to Maria.

"Oh, Fido!" she said happily, using her nickname for Claude, "I knew you would come and rescue me!"

Claude wasn't listening to her, though. He was busy looking around for the chopper.

Where are you Catalina?

Claude's question was answered as the sound of a rocket beingfired caught his attention. He spun just in time to see a rocket heading right for him. He grabbed Maria and ran, leaping off the structure just as the rocket hit the floor. There was a massive explosion that propelled Claude and Maria forwards. They landed, hard, on a supply crate.

"Ow!" Maria groaned, rubbing her back. Claude looked around, knowing the chopper would come back soon. He climbed down off the supply crate and helped Maria down as well. He signaled for her to find a hiding place, and so she ran behind the crate. Claude looked at the MAC in frustration. It was useless now. He dropped it and looked around. Lying next to a dead Colombian was an M4 Carbine. Claude scooped it up and readied it. He didn't know if it would help, but it was the best weapon he had.

The chopper reappeared, this time hovering over the river, and Claude wasted no time. The only good thing about Catalina having a rocket launcher was that she would have to be close to use it. Claude had to keep the chopper away, and as he held down the trigger, the stream of bullets steadily pouring from the barrel of the deadly weapon, the helicopter did seem to stall for a moment. But the gun suddenly clicked empty, and the chopper continued it's advance. In mere seconds it would be on him, and the next rocket wouldn't miss.

Claude looked around. The dead Colombian had another M4 clip on him. He dove for it, ejecting the empty clip. The chopper was now directly above him. It was the end.

He slammed the clip into the rifle and opened fire. Bullet after bullet pinged off the armored whirly, until at last something good happened. Catalina had been hanging out the open side door of the chopper, aiming the rocket launcher. With a sickening half-crunch, half-splatter, the M4 bullet tore through Catalina's right arm. And severed it.

She screamed in horrible agony as her severed limb and the rocket launcher fell out of the sky and hit the cement right next to Claude. He dropped the M4, pried the launcher out of Catalina's disembodied arm, and aimed upward.

He saw Catalina holding her bleeding stump. Saw her scream for the pilot to get out of there. Saw the look of disbelief on her face as she realized she had lost.

Claude pulled the trigger. The force of the rocket pushed him back a bit, but he kept on staring up. It shot through the air for a second, before slamming into the underside of the chopper. The explosion was terrific. The chopper rocked as smoke and flame billowed from it. It began to spin around in place, faster and faster. It was losing altitude. Finally, the blades could take no more. They shot off the top of the chopper, burying themselves in the cliff side. The flaming ball of metal now had no way to keep airborne. It dropped like a stone, plunging into the coldness of the river below, before a final, resounding explosion finished it all. Fire, water, and metal shot skyward as Catalina's smoldering tomb sunk to the bottom of the river.

Claude dropped the rocket launcher and stared at the setting sun. He breathed deeply. It was over.

----------

Maria and Claude walked back along the dam. She was yammering on about her affections for Claude, which annoyed him quite a bit.

"We're gonna' have such fun, cause you know I love you, I, I, I really do...cause you're such a big strong man and that's just what I need, anyway, what was I saying, I forget but you know what it's like don't you?"

Claude groaned in anger, but Maria didn't seem to notice. She would be okay if she would just shut up once in a while. Finally, Claude could take no more. He pulled his pistol, his last gun, out of his jacket and fired.

----------

Maria cringed and fell silent as Claude fired into the air. He looked at her with annoyance and she smiled meekly.

"Oh, uh...sorry..." she apologized. Claude grinned, satisfied, and put away the gun.

----------

Claude stared at the sky again and wondered about what to do next. The $500,000 had gone down with the chopper, so he had no money left. He had nowhere to go now.

"Hey, what's that?" Maria asked, pointing at the river. Claude looked down and smiled. He had just remembered that he had put the money in a protective waterproof, fireproof, bulletproof, buoyant case. Sure, it had been paranoid, but it had paid off. The case of half a million in cold, hard cash was floating right there in the river. Claude ran off to grab it before anyone else, like the police, could. He heard Maria running after him, asking him what they were going to do with all that money.

Claude thought about the Cartel's mansion. Now that they were finished, it was practically his. And with $500,000, as well as any cash or drugs in the Cartel mansion, he could start his own criminal empire!

The Speed Crime Syndicate he thought, toying with the name, I like the sound of that.

He wasn't going to be another errand boy anymore. Of course, the Leones still wanted him dead, and as soon as he started up a rival organization, they would probably be at war.

Oh well, he thought. Was my life ever peaceful and quiet?

As he reached the bottom of the dam and grabbed the case out of the water, he looked at the spot where Catalina's chopper had sank.

You shouldn't have fucked me over babe, he thought. Your loss.

THE END