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Falling Into a Dream

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            Jason steps out onto the pier, a boat set to go to Rook, largely sail, having a motor for when he needs to book it. Jason would rather he didn’t enter the islands noticed, but if he is, well… He smirks, snapping his bubblegum while double checking his stock of ammunition and weaponry. By now they’d be finding Doug, or what’s left of him. Just a few hours Vaas would be getting his message. He’ll be approaching the islands from the northwest, near what’d be left of Earnhardt’s mansion. He snaps a fresh magazine into the AR he brought tosses it into the copilot’s seat. Next to Louise, the fond name he has as a surprise for the boat patrols. “You’re really going through with this?”

 

Jason’s blood runs cold, he’d been hoping that he’d dodged a ghost, that it was just the people he’d killed directly that torment him. He ignores it getting the boat up and running, he’ll be motoring out into the deep before switching to wind power. “Jay; I know you too well. You can hear me. Now stop pretending you can’t, you’re not six anymore dude.” Jason stands up straight his face falling into the careful neutral of when he’s hunting. He turns, and there he is, standing there like the last time he saw him. Same shirt, same pants, same hole in his throat spilling away his long-spent life blood. “Grant.” His brother just shakes his head, “Jesus Jay, you can’t actually be doing this.”

 

“You aren’t really here.” Jason’s voice sounds cold even to him, like the last of his humanity is spent. Grant looks hurt, “then what am I Jason?” Jason shrugs, “my self-doubt, my inner Liza, fucked if I know, fucked if I care.” Grant hops off the railing he was sitting on laughing a bit, “I know Liza’s prettier than me. And I know you Jason, you aren’t that far gone.” He reaches out Jason snaps, like an irritable animal, “Don’t.” Grant recoils. “Just, please,” his affect returns, with it too much emotion. He’s sick to his stomach and he’s shaking like he hasn’t eaten. Grant gets that sad desperate look he had when he’d first broken Jason out.

 

“Don’t. You’re not here. Not you. Not Hoyt. Not Citra. You’re all dead and my broken drugged up imbalanced FUCKED brain chemistry is just fucking with me. So just, go away.” Grant sighs, “maybe I’m your conscience then Jason, trying for the last voice you might actually listen too.” Jason snorts, “you sound like my shrink.” Grant frowns, “how would you know? You only went once.” Jason starts prowling across the deck, Grant follows him. “What are you thinking Jay? Going to go in guns blazing? Kill Vaas? Die trying?” Jason turns on the boat, “it’s better than withering away back there. Better than killing someone I won’t get away with.” Grant looks sad, “you wouldn’t-” Jason cuts his hallucination off, he can’t think of it as Grant, that road is worse than him being insane. “I would, I almost have.” Grant’s pleading now but his voice is fainter, “you didn’t though! Jason just please list-” Jason turns on the engine drowning out whatever the figment was trying to see.

 

Jason looks to the south, the hazy light of Bangkok mixing with the dawn, “shut up.”

*

 

 

            Vaas storms through his compound like an angry tiger, his small lithe frame alive with menace. He’s alive, for the first time since his bitch of a sister tried to kill him. Organized, not sober, he’d never be that well-adjusted, but less unhinged. Less erratic. Ever since his rebirth, the scar in his chest aches but his mind is on fire with ideas and focus. He’d barely survived his fight with Jason Brody, if Snow White hadn’t been blitzed out of his gourd Vaas probably would have taken it in the heart and not nicked a lung. He also found out who was truly loyal to him. They brought him to the medical bay, patched him up, kept him hidden while Citra and Hoyt used Jason to try and destroy each other. He can feel the quickening in his pulse that comes whenever he thinks about Jason, he thought maybe his sister would have him wrapped around her finger. Until that final fight, he saw the savage devotion Jason had for those he loves. Jason burns everything he has for the people he cares about, and it was nothing short of amazing. Citra was always going to get burned trying to use something so dangerous so recklessly.

 

Now’s not the time to get lost in thoughts of his best quarry, no he’s got a war to manage and suddenly one of his resources got fucked with. Not Dennis, Dennis is trying to bring the Rakyat to bear but he can’t he’s too much of a dickless pussy to have a hope command the way Citra did. Influence on the island sure but nothing off it. No Doug going dark immediately after calling in a meat drop? Had to be Aria trying to cut off his means of taking on the consortium. She’d swooped in and managed to consolidate Hoyt’s holdings. Not all of them, too many petty warlords. Some of them still out in the jungle holding their own turf. Most either he or she or Dennis killed off and made examples of. The only ones left were those too stubborn and too clever to die. He’d been laid up too long after getting stabbed. To bad he can’t hate Jason any more, it’s already transcended what he thought hate really was.

 

 “You dumbass fuckers better have actual news.” He storms into the riveted industrial complex, some factory or some shit. Now it’s his personal party palace, drugs, raves, weapons, and his war room. There’s only one face, Darius, his intel specialist, fucking nerd knew his shit and it made him valuable, value made him mouthy. But he was also loyal so Vaas doesn’t beat him unless he steps out of line in front of the others.

 

“You got a letter from your admirer,” Darius holds out a picture on his phone, “just got this off a crime scene photo.” Bangkok police, Doug’s head, it’s almost unrecognizable, his lips and eyelids had been removed, it was artistic in its brutality. It’s message, Vaas is about to call up that bitch on the South Island and tell her how numbered her days are when he sees the other half of the message. A birthday invitation, a cutesy thing all pink and pastel, Disney’s Snow White with the words ‘see you soon’ a heart instead of a period.


A complex and disturbing cocktail of emotions buzz around Vaas’ brain like a mixture of amphetamines. He’s not sure what his face is doing but it must be impressive because Darius has backed up several paces. “Cute” is all he says.

*

 

 

            Aria looks over the compound, the repair job is patchwork as all fuck, Hoyt had years to hunker down, she had months. Vaas coming back to life like some evil fucked up Lazarus was not ideal at all. Hoyt’s mercenaries respect her but the pirates and bandits and locals fear Vaas. With him having seemingly comeback from the dead he’s got an almost mythology built around him. The only person who’s got as many boogieman stories is Jason fucking Brody. The man who took the complex wargame board that was the Rook Islands and up ended them like a petulant child.

 

Worse, Vass has started getting erratic again, he’d managed to become, not predictable, but more militaristic in his actions. He doesn’t have Hoyt but that was only a stumble, he seized two thirds of the North Island. Dennis, Citra’s little lap dog has been a useful bulwark. As were the petty warlords and wannabe pirate kings. Now they sat on land and resources that would make her life much more comfortable they were targets. She was finally ready to move against one of the more obvious ones in the east when her spies and scouts informed her that Vaas sent a unilateral order to scramble his forces. Vaas was hunkering down with his personal forces. The bulk of them though, including her informants, have been sent to the fringes, he’s doubled the number of boats and instructed that any planes passing his territory be shot down.

 

“What is that maniac up to? It’s like he’s expecting a military to invade.” Something’s kicked the hornet’s nest and she doesn’t like it, not after all the effort she’s put into the putting the board back together. She gets on the intercom from Hoyt’s office, the stain on the floor where he’d bled all over was hosed down, painted over, and covered. His spine severed by the knife shoved through his throat. Her hand drifts to her own neck. She gets on the line, “I want our Dark Forest operations in full effect. Something’s got the game moving and I want everyone ready to take down any insurgency. Reroute our supply drops around Vaas territory, tell them to come in from the south. I don’t care if they must reroute through a different fucking country no supply lines are cut.”

 

She walks out onto the balcony looking out over the compound her arms folded one hand resting against her dark lips. “What’s got you excited Vaas?”

*

 

 

Dennis has been stuck running between the temple and the outer villages, the idea that he’s not a capable leader, the people who compare him to Jason Brody still whisper. Oh never to his face not since he gutted the first and last person to do so. But he can still hear them, hear the whispers. People blaming him. His fault for bringing Jason. His fault Citra’s dead. No, no it’s not. Not his fault. It’s Jason’s fault, Jason killed her, he would have been a king, a paragon sitting at the table of the gods. Instead he betrayed them all. For what? Outsiders! He could have been one of them, one of the true people. The chosen people. But no once an outsider always an outsider.

 

Now Vaas’ mobilizing and that’s got Aria up in arms, which of course means that he and the other warlords, the natives, the people who are the TRUE rulers of Rook. Not a traitor or pretender or invader. They won’t suffer invasion. No. They won’t stay on the defensive, they will use this. They will strike at the heart of those cancerous vermin. Those snakes and rats. Let them come, let them try to make their home a battleground. The Rakyat will take and build a paradise on earth out of their bones.

 

He chews his lip, blood dripping down onto the floor below him. The voices die the minute he enters the room. His eyes flicker around the room. These Rakyat, they might be the people but they’re seditious the whisperers. Backstabbers just waiting for a chance to say that it doesn’t matter who his grandmother was. He’s an outsider and they can start up their susurrus questioning him. Turning the younger warriors against him. Bastards, ungrateful bastards all of them. None of them know how loyal he was to Citra. How much he gave. How much he did for her. She was his everything and she groomed Jason. A stupid outsider with no real power of his own. All stolen form the Rakyat. And he repaid them by stabbing the high priestess and sending them into chaos. Refugees in their own home.

 

It doesn’t matter, Citra knows what to do, she has a plan for everything. And she knows his value, speaking to him from beyond. Because he knew he was among the true faithful and now she tells him that he was right. That he’s first among them. He’ll win, he’ll drive the invaders form their shores and skin the traitor Vaas and all his pirates and leave them hanging from trees for the hogs. They will all see soon enough, they will understand that he was always meant to lead the Rakyat. Citra will show them the way to paradise.

*

 

 

Jason grins wildly when the first couple patrol boats start moving in. They stand up and wave, happy islanders here to welcome a rich sailor in his yacht. Then take him prisoner and sell him to the highest bidder while also ransoming him. They’re pirates. Jason doesn’t recognize the colors, green and blues decorate them, not Vaas’ striking red. The color of a lord and a warrior. He knows they have guns, but it doesn’t matter. He brings up Louise and releases the rocket propelled grenade. The kickback bruises his shoulder and the boat lists but it’s a satisfying pain. A reminder of where he came from. Where he truly came from. Where he was burned away and reborn.

 

The pirates barely have time to be surprised before the first boat goes up. They are stunned for a moment before they start swearing. It doesn’t matter Jason’s already brought up the assault rifle and is peppering the second boat, making sure to hit the gas tank. He throws a flare into it and whoops happily when it goes up behind him, he guns the motor heading towards the secret cave. But there’s already another boat, these ones have brilliant red adorning their chests and head. Jason swings towards them, he throws a grenade, some jump they don’t make it. The blast has crippled the ones that lived, and Jason picks them off.

 

He makes for the cave before the smoke attracts the rest of whoever’s out here. Interesting that Vaas doesn’t own the whole island. He knows Vaas, he wouldn’t settle for anything less than total dominance. Even when he was working for Hoyt he owned his turf. Being subservient only when he had no other choice.

 

“You really are getting back into form. I wonder what little shit-stains have made a mess of my kingdom.” Hoyt’s sprawled across the back seat. “You have my full encouragement to fuck these panty-waist pricks straight to this side Jason. If you fucking die, I’ll kill you again when you get here.” Hoyt’s got a cigar. Jason doesn’t care, he pretends he doesn’t see or hear him.

 

“You know they know about this little hidey-hole yeah? Citra managed to get your little bitch brother and friends. Secret’s out.” Jason knows that, he has no intention of sticking around. He ties up the boat and keeps his main arsenal with him. But Louise will get a swan song when they root through this place thinking he’s here. A clever booby trap hidden behind some less clever ones. It will be a beautiful blast. He applies some grease paint, leaving him with a pattern like the tigers of the jungle. He grins at his reflection, there’s a feral wild glint to his eye.

 

Jason ascends, Hoyt cackling at the deadly gift left for whoever finds the boat behind him. Jason doesn’t look back emerging into the overgrown grounds of the burnt shell of the mansion. He inhales it, letting the island infuse him. He stalks off into the jungle someone will be around to find him soon.

*

 

 

            Vaas follows the scout, the second boat sent out after the first failed to report in, the boats are burnt husks. One of the faceless wannabes that tried to rule the islands in Hoyt’s absence. They don’t have the power or authority to hold their kingdoms. They’re speed bumps between him and Aria. Neither willing to waste the forces to oust them. Not when the other would swoop in when they’re weakened. Vaas lights up a blunt his eyes glittering with barely restrained ambition. A new player has entered the game. Snow White’s returned to Wonderland. This destruction, the pure efficient ruthlessness here is all Jason. There’s a certain artistry to the havoc.

 

“There’s a cave under where the old fuck used to live. Check it out.” Less than half an hour later and Vaas is radioed, they found a boat in the caves. Vaas stands at the entrance to the cave and whistles. Look at that, probably cost mommy and daddy an arm and a leg Jason. One of his minions is slinking towards it and Vaas spits. “If you shit for brains so much as touch this boat, I’ll fucking kill you. Assuming whatever Snow White left behind doesn’t.” They back off. He turns and leaves the cave a smile on his lips. Hell, he’s whistling by the time he’s in the open air walking towards his convoy. The lieutenant of the portion of his turf that borders on this area runs to meet him. “What should we do with the boat sir?”

 

Vaas takes a long drag from another blunt, “leave it, Aria and the idiots here don’t know Jason, let them blow themselves up on whatever’s rigged to it.” Vaas gets into his car and looks at his current second who has yet to piss him off enough to get shot. “Get word out, we keep patrols and our compound at high security. I want any changes in the power structure reported to me immediately.”

 

The second passes on his orders, “what about the rave sir?” Ah yeah, the anniversary rave celebrating Hoyt getting his ass shanked by an angry tiger in human skin. “We hold it. Snow White wants to come to the ball let him. I’ll save a dance.” Vaas can imagine it, the pounding music, fluorescent neon paint and clothes, the smoke, the drugs, Jason wouldn’t be able to resist reuniting with him then. He can almost feel Jason, feel the jungle pulsing in both their veins. They’d both been Citra’s little warriors. Both been fucked by her, but Jason managed to kill the bitch and Hoyt too. He smirks, the thought of breaking the man who’d been able to do all that.

*

 

 

Jason looks out over the compound, one of Vaas’ pirate bases coopted by someone else, he’d just tripped over it really. His blind is in the jungle high up and near the mansion. The soldiers of the warlord patrol it and already a plan is formulating.