Claude arrived back at Love Media with a grin on his face, and the media tycoon seemed pleased with his job as he was handed the packages. But what he said both surprised Claude and wiped the smile off his face, at least temporarily.
"Thank you for retrieving those packages, but they were only a decoy. Sorry about that, but that's sometimes the way in business." Donald told Claude in an apologetic tone.
"My real objective was hidden on the plane all along. Airport officials working under the government have acquired it, but I intervened beforehand. Cross the bridge to Shoreside Vale tomorrow morning, get to Francis International Airport and retrieve the package. It will be waiting for you at Customs Hangar 4 in the aircraft's fuselage. There should be no trouble getting it."
Well, that's a good thing. Nothing more to do today, Claude thought. Donald lifted out another wad of notes and handed them to him. 10 grand, not too much considering some of his previous pay, but he was already getting wealthy anyway.
As Claude headed back to his residence, the Cartel was already making plans to acquire the package. Since Claude had been spotted following the plane, that particular flight's details and flight instructions had been searched for and quickly established (nothing found on Love). Catalina had been informed, and she had decided that as early as possible in the morning, she would accompany a Cartel strike team to obtain the target. Although she herself wasn't exactly smart, she did know what she wanted for the organisation and was determined to execute.
The plan was to storm the site of the plane, discover the location of the package, acquire it and then take it back to Fort Staunton for safer storage before moving back to Shoreside Vale.
And as morning dawned, the Cartel executed it without a hitch. They moved past sleepy-eyed airport security using three Pan-Lantic company vans (a front company which 'owned' Fort Staunton) and captured the airport officials (and subsequently disposed of). After the package had been discovered and stored away, several Cartel members were left to stand guard just in case more heat came, but it was more specifically aimed for Claude, while the rest moved back to Fort Staunton.
But Claude was on their heels. Shortly after several Cartel vans had left the airplane site, he had rolled into the airport on a baggage handler, taken from an unfortunate worker, since normal cars weren't allowed in. As he approached Love's plane, he knew that something was wrong. He had brought his AK-47 in a concealed bag, along with his Uzi, but had left his Sniper Rifle back at his place, a decision which he now regretted. Neither of his weapons had a scope for him to scout out any problems, but from his location, he could spot a couple of dead bodies on the ground, and an upturned van as well.
Claude decided to risk a pass by the location with his baggage handler. Taking out his assault rifle in one hand, he steered with the other and buzzed past the mentioned customs hangar. He took a quick glance at the situation, expecting bullets to whiz by, but instead, he spotted Cartel shirts guarding the parked Beagle. How do they know what I'm after?!, Claude thought furiously. It was either Love's fault or something that he hadn't spotted previously. But he still had to deal with the current situation.
Guiding his baggage handler to a safe distance, he assessed his options. One, he could Rambo-charge the Cartel and gamble that there were only a small number. Two, he could wait until the Cartel left the area and either ambush them, or call for support from one of the Kasens (who were itching to take a crack at the Cartel anyway.) But Claude didn't want to wait for Yakuza support, as if the package was already gone, it would have made it a lot harder to track down as time ticked on. So he grabbed his AK-47, readied his baggage handler and hit the accelerator. The little buggy was hardly an efficient attack vehicle. It was slow, weak and left the driver badly exposed, but Claude knew that if he executed the surprise attack well enough, the Cartel men wouldn't have a chance of even firing on him. That was if there weren't about twenty of them.
The vehicle got to a decent speed though, and as Claude rolled past, he started firing wildly, keeping his foot on the accelerator. The Cartel dived around in shock at first, before returning fire. Several of Claude's bullets had struck, only killing one but leaving a couple of others wounded and in agony. But as it turned out, the risk had paid off: the Cartel had only stationed four guards around the plane. The remaining Cartel guard, despite the Kalashnikov still in his hand, jumped into one of the remaining vans and went for the baggage handler.
Claude, who had to turn the baggage handler around and pull out his Uzi in exchange for his spent AK-47, finally saw the van coming. Swearing loudly (for once), he had to make a lightning decision. The handler wouldn't be able to outrun the van and probably had no chance of surviving a goose chase anywhere. If the van hit him at that speed, he'd most likely be blown off the handler, leaving him liable to be run over. He doubted he had enough time to blow up the van before it came onto him, so he decided that baiting would have to be the answer. His baggage handler pulled away to the left, and then turned back around to the right. The van drew closer, the driver grinning evilly as he readied for impact.
But at the last moment, Claude took a leap of faith, gripping his Uzi as he did so. The van crashed into the baggage handler, sending it flipping off in the opposite direction. The van jerked a little, but steadied from the impact and turned around to take a shot at Claude. But he was now ready, and was firing his Uzi in bursts as he did so, aiming at the tyres. Bullets pierced the two tyres on the right side of the van, forcing it to skid out even further. As it did so, Claude took the opportunity to grab his AK47 once more, stuffing in a new clip. He readied the weapon, aimed precisely and fired. A third tyre was blown out, and finally, bullets managed to find the gas tank and turn the van into smoking carbon wreckage.
With the van dealt with, Claude moved back into the customs hangar, where the two injured Cartel were now unconscious from blood loss. He took a look at the fuselage, but unsurprisingly, nothing was around. So his gaze turned to the second remaining van, the Pan-Lantic logo painted on. The Cartel front company. If the Cartel had gotten hold of the package, they would've taken it either to Cedar Grove which was Cartel territory and boasted a series of heavily-guarded luxury mansions, or Fort Staunton which was similarly secure. Claude supposed he could just go back and tell Love, who could probably organised another task in which he could retrieve the package with some sort of backup. But he was determined to solve this by himself: it was one of those impulses which he just seemed to pick up every time the Cartel was involved. With that, he took the remaining Pan-Lantic van out of the airport, called security, and drove off towards Fort Staunton, figuring that it would be the obvious choice behind Cedar Grove.
Since it was early morning on Staunton Island, Claude had enough time to check the place out before Cartel started showing up on the streets. His van would also offer as a temporary disguise. After getting his sniper rifle and some ammunition from his hideout, he paged Asuka for Yakuza support and got a positive reply a minute later. With that, he drove over and entered the unguarded gate entrance to the construction site. Taking out his sniper rifle, he scoped around the area and found large numbers of Cartel scattered around: at least ten. That made sniping them one by one difficult, unless they were rather isolated. But if he chose his targets right, he'd have plenty of time to clean out the Cartel before he was discovered, or at least so the Yakuza could come in and finish off.
The first two targets were relatively easy to pick: they were hanging together, and concealed from the others. Claude disposed of these with headshots, and then another one about twenty metres away. Most of the Cartel seemed to be gathered near a blue-walled area in the middle of the construction site: Claude assumed that the area was first-priority. But before he could start on them, he would have to pick off the outsiders, or risk being attacked from behind when he got closer.
Although he did miss a couple of shots, the bolt was worked quickly enough that none of the Cartel men had a real chance to react: a good start. Fitting in another new clip into the rifle, Claude lay his AK47 onto the seat next to him, and started firing at the Cartel guarding the blue wall. He'd dropped three when they started running about, panicking but alert. Work bolt, fire, work bolt, fire. Three more fell down, rendered disabled or dead. By now, the guards had followed the cracks of gunfire to the lone van parked near the entrance, out of sight, and was starting to move towards it. Claude fired one last shot, blowing away the arm of a Cartel, before jumping out of the van with the assault rifle in both hands, firing.
The hail of bullets took the guards by surprise: they didn't expect such a hasty exit. The first few made no attempt to dodge and were cut down. There were only a few remaining now: Claude was amazed at how he had done such a number on the Columbians, but he had to close it out. Ducking behind a pile of wooden blocks, he reloaded his weapon and ducked back out to fire. The four remaining men had guns blazing though, which alerted the two important Cartel figureheads who had just gone up a lift, but Claude was crafty enough to flush them and take them out one at a time. He then slowly approached the blue wall, ready for any remaining Cartel, but found nothing but a lift on the other side. Shrugging, he stepped on and activated the button.
On top, Catalina and Miguel had both heard the gunshots below them. But they hadn't been able to leave at that moment; it was only now that they were prepared, but this was on the assumption that there were still Cartel guards around. Catalina pulled off her Darth Vader-like ski mask which was a part of an all-black leather outfit which she used in robbery situations, and spoke:
"Hey, let's get this outta here. God knows what it is, dumb bastards have no idea, but he seems to want it badly enough so it must be worth something."
As she spoke, the elevator came humming up behind him, and out dived Claude, AK47 ready to fire.
"Who the heck?!" Miguel yelped.
"YOU!" Catalina hissed.
"Take it easy, amigo, de nada, de nada!" Miguel shouted frantically, stepping back as Claude moved towards them, his eyes filled with hate and gun ready to fire.
"YOU, I left you pouring your heart out into the gutter!" the Cartel leader snarled, but even she knew that the situation was dire.
Claude looked at the package. Miguel followed his gaze, snatched it from Catalina and shoved it into Claude's hands.
"Hey, don't shoot, amigo. No problems, we all friends here, take it."
"Don't be such a pussy!" Catalina roared, her eyes a furious red.
"We got no choice baby! La-aaargh!" Miguel fired back, but he was interrupted as Catalina fired a bullet into his left shin, sending him to the floor.
"You always got a choice you dumb bastard."
With that, Catalina made for an emergency exit. Before Claude could stop her, she kicked out with her knee-high leather boots, sending Claude to the ground and vaulted over the edge, down into a conveniently-placed pile of boxes, before running towards one of the remaining Cartel Cruisers. Claude pulled himself up and fired with his AK47 but missed, before he unleashed a stream of obscenities as he watched her get away.
"So the whore got away…" a female voice behind Claude said, making him jump.
"I'm sorry about the crazy bitch, they're all the same, por favor." Miguel pleaded as Asuka Kasen pulled out what looked like a torture stick.
"But you've done me a favour, Claude. You're not the only one that has a score to settle with the Columbians. This worm here organised an attempt which tried to kill my brother." Asuka snarled, as she took a swing at Miguel's face. There was a crack, and blood started pouring from Miguel's nose as well. Claude tried to keep a straight face.
"I never try kill no Yakuza-"
"Liar! We all saw the Cartel Cruiser. We're going to hunt down and KILL all you Columbian dogs!" growled the Yakuza leader, and she turned to Claude.
"I'll be operating on our little friend here to extract information and a little pleasure."
Claude tensed. Hurting people was Catalina's idea of pleasure too, he thought, shivering.
"You, drop by later. I'm sure I'll require your services."
Claude nodded and turned around, ready to move off. But Miguel scrabbled for him, shouting. Asuka kneed him in the chest, sending him grunting to the floor, but he kept resisting.
"Please amigo, don't leave me with her, she psycho chica! Amigo?" Miguel gasped, as Claude moved down the elevator. He could hear the Columbian's screams as he headed back down, before being punctured by several more cracks.
On ground level, the Yakuza reinforcements had finally arrived: three Yakuza Stingers filled with gang members who were now securing the site. Fort Staunton was now Yakuza territory, but physically didn't matter too much for the Cartel: their fortress at Cedar Grove was overwhelming. But it appeared that the Yakuza had scored one in a bitter gang war that would tear Liberty City further apart.
After all the drama it had taken to get the package, Claude had almost forgotten to deliver it back to Love. Love was pleased, and quickly had the package locked away. He handed Claude another briefcase containing fifty grand, and told him that the next job would be ready whenever he needed to do so. That was good enough for Claude. He drove back to his hideout and then for a massive breakfast at one of Liberty City's many cafes. It had been a job well done.
Meanwhile, Catalina hadn't stopped since entering the Cartel Cruiser. The Yakuza Stingers had been in no position to pursuit, even with their superior speed, and she had sped along the lift bridge back to her mansion at Cedar Grove. Throwing away her black gloves, she entered the massive living room inside, where she was set upon by several butlers holding drinks. Snatching a couple of the assorted cocktails, she kicked her feet up on a nearby coffee table and thought. Miguel was in Yakuza custody, but he was essentially useless; Fort Staunton had been lost but it had only been a small piece, SPANK was still selling quickly and undiscovered and well, she was still alive. As she stripped and changed back into her normal clothes, she realised that it would take a drastic move to push the Yakuza back. A plan began to form at the back of her mind, and she began smiling wickedly…
After consuming four slices of toast, several large slices of bacon, four eggs and three sausages along with three cups of coffee, Claude was re-energized and just a little staggered. He decided that a break of three hours would be enough before he went back to Love Media for his next mission: there was no point in keeping the media tycoon waiting.