The New Captain

Vince sat on the jungle gym with his hands restlessly sliding along the warm metal bars on his left and right. His eyes darted left and right, occasionally resting on his mother sitting and looking equally anxious on the bench across the park from him. Vince wasn't sure when the woman he was looking for would show up, but he'd know her when he saw her...

"Oi. Up here."

Startled by the voice, Vince tilted his head up to meet eyes with the head hanging over his. The woman he was looking for was now lying across the gym above him, her dark hair tips hanging about a foot above his face. One of her hands kept her white hat securely on her head. The eyes glaring darkly at Vince's face nearly caused both him and his mother to fall off of their respective perches. "Oh, hey, Lyn! I've been waiting a little while. You got Horus?"

Lyn straightened up now that the child had turned around on the bar to face her. She hunched and put a finger to her chin, trying to appear thoughtful. "Let's see, uh... DevilHorus, DevilHorus... do I know a Navi named DevilHorus...? Oh yeah, a punk shrimp Navi like that... I might have seen one get eaten by some Candevils at Hades Island..." Lyn said, flashing a low grin with sharp canines at her client. She caught a glimpse of a flinch, what she was hoping for, and produced her PET from beneath her coat, along with all the chips she'd borrowed and earned. "Nah, kid, DevilHorus is here and okay. He should be ready to go and coach you for battle. You'll find he's reborn a new Navi!"

"Ah, cool!" Vince said, swiping out his PET and accepting the transfer to regain his Navi. "How was it Horus? You didn't get too cozy with Lyn and fall for her charms while I was away, did you?" Vince laughed at his Navi's expense.

The dark-cloaked Navi sweated bullets and made a frantic simultaneous head-shaking throat-cutting motion to his operator.

Vince glanced up from his PET to find Lyn's snarling face now less than a foot from his own. The end of the pipe perched between her teeth had nearly gone into his mouth and threatened to go up his nose as she talked. "Little boy, I was wiping sh*t from my *ss with this runt for a week. If he's learned to love a part of me it's the sole of my sneaker. Got that?"

By this point Vince was leaning back to get the undeniably smoke-tinted breath out of his vicinity. His mother was running over to protect her child either from the fall or the women. She had produced her wallet in order to pay Lyn as quickly as possible. She thrust forward the zenny, nearly dropping it to the sandbox below, which somehow seemed like it could be a fatal mistake in the current situation.

For her part, though, Lyn was just as quick to snatch it. The Navi trainer took a drag from her pipe that made the Vince's mother want to cover his eyes to shield him from indecency. Lyn either didn't notice or didn't care. Exhaling, Lyn focused on the two again. "That's all there is to this, really. I ask only that you pay attention to the advice your Navi gives you, as that's my way of passing on coaching to teach you to do your part, and that you pass my good work on to others. Word of mouth is how my business travels. If you wanna, you can count your chips to make sure I didn't skimp. You can try bustin' some viruses on the Net if you want to make sure it paid off. Interested?"

The two were practically backing up as soon as they heard her conditions, and both shook their heads as politely as possible. "Thank you again for your hard work, ma'am," the mother spouted, bowing and trying to reassert her proper place as the adult in the conversation between the two through respect. After seeing Lyn cleaning out her ear with a nail in response, her lip twisted thoughtlessly to show one side of her teeth, the woman gave up and took Vince from the park with her.

"Another job, another paycheck," Lyn said to herself, readjusting her pipe. "Damn, I'm good." Tugging her hat down over her eyes, Lyn left the sandbox. Upon exiting, she kicked the artificial grains off of her shoes and took a glance around. It was mid-day, the sun just beginning to fall in the sky. She'd put in a final busting spurt with DevilHorus.EXE on the return day, and was feeling ready to get home.

"Yo, hey! Wait, you in the coat!" a voice called from behind her. Lyn stopped and turned just enough to spot the incoming man from the corner of her eye. He was a slightly overweight fellow in a strangely casual-seeming suit. She eventually attributed it to the colorful tropical tie he was wearing, which in her own admittedly awful fashion sense equated to a fashion disaster.

"I heard your a Navi trainer?" the man said, taking out a handkerchief and wiping beading sweat off his brow. Apparently he had been out a while.

"Yeah, that's me. Lyn Clarke, professional Navi trainer," Lyn responded, hiding her excitement at being approached so quickly for another job. "If you want to discuss my services, my price begins-"

"So you don't have a Navi? Your PET is free?" the man asked desperately, clutching his own PET between his fat fingers and breathing heavily.

Lyn raised an eyebrow, nodded, and continued "- at 1000 z for the cheapest short-term package, which includes training in basic dodg-"

"I'll pay!" the man cried, shaking his fists in the air. "I want you to hold onto this Navi."

Lyn blinked at the man absently. "Oh, my long term package," she said, regaining her composure and speaking with her voice a bit muffled as her lips shifted to keep her pipe in place. "Yes, for 5000z I can hold onto the Navi for as much as a month if you'd like them to learn advanced techniques and form specific strategies with-"

"No, no!" the man shouted, waving his hands in front of him. "I mean hold onto it, keep it! It's your Navi from now on! I'll pay your amount... uh, 5000z for a month you say? 5000z for you to take and keep this Navi, and a regular starter's kit of accessories to go with it! She's such a good Navi, so full of potential! Whaddya say?"

Lyn didn't understand, but that didn't stop her from taking offense. "I think you've got my services mixed up, buddy. I don't have a Navi and I want it to stay that way. That's kinda part of the whole "Navi Trainer" shkit, big guy."

"But if you've got the money, you can afford to hold onto it for a month, right? How about you keep this Navi for a month, okay? The deal I gave you before, and if by the end of the month you don't love her, meet up here at 5:00 and give her back! Okay?"

Lyn wasn't in much of a bargaining mood, and the latest offer caused her to shift her hat a bit lower on her head as her other hand searched for her temples. She couldn't be angry at the guy, as pathetic as his voice sounded. "Well, a deal's a deal, right? If you're going with my terms, I always need money for my fund and I'll be happy to take the starter swag and pawn it off or summat. I can't promise you that you'll get your Navi back in one piece, though, you know?" Lyn added this final note tilting her head back, giving the man as twisted of a grin and as evil of a glare as she could manage in a final attempt to scare him off."

"Oh thank you!" the man said, catching Lyn completely off guard as his hand grabbed her stunned, limp fingers and shook her entire arm. "The moment I saw you, I said 'You know, she and Ship are meant to be together!'" The man stopped shaking and his eyes turned to Lyn's face in a sly way. "Oh, I should mention. You familiar with Electopian Cruiselines?"

"No, thank you sir, I am not," Lyn said, running a hand down her face and anticipating free cruise tickets thrown in as the requirement for taking on two more Navis at once.

"No? I thought everyone was!" the man said, oblivious to Lyn's mood as he searched his pockets and forced a business card and flier upon the girl. "Well, Ship happens to be a famous and well-respected advertising agent of that very company! You know, the cute blonde-headed girl in the innertube that appears on TV, inviting all to a merry time aboard Electopian Cruiseline's famous princess-class ships?" The man talked to the absent operator as he uploaded the Navi to Lyn's PET in what seemed like a dream.

Lyn could vaguely recall such a personality, but this "Ship" had about as much personal significance to her as the baby selling diapers on the next channel. She didn't respond, just returned a dumb and impatient glare.

"Well, in any case, you'll love her," the man said with a grin. "You'll lover her as much as I and EC's many devoted customers have these past... 3, 4? I've lost track of the years. Ah well, here you go," he said, piling his promised goods into Lyn's just-outstretched hand. "I've gotta run and get back to work before I'm missed, but I know you won't regret this. Thank you, ma'am! Give Ship a chance!"

Lyn continued to stare after him with her outstretched fingers now tightening around the goods. "What kind of sh*tstorm have I got myself into this time...?"
Lyn had shoveled the contents of her hand into her pocket and begun to head home without even checking the contents of her pockets. The bus was taking a while to arrive, though, and absently the Operator began to consider what kind of surprises might have come with her new Navi. What if she had just become the proud recipient of some new sort of viral scam, or... the former owner had been a Net-criminal and looking for some unsuspecting dupe to draw the heat for him? Suddenly waking up from the dreamlike state she'd been in and drawing her PET, Lyn hurriedly activated it.

The screen blipped on with a flash and a wide smile greeted the new Operator. "Hi, new owner! Let me introduce you to your new Navi, Ship.EXE! Today I'll be guiding you through the many new features that your Navi will offer you to create the ultimate operator - Navi interface." The bright sunniness that was the Navi's face was threatening to jump through the screen at its operator, giving a bit of a stifling effect to Lyn despite the LED screen that separated the two. Lyn was relieved when Ship finally backed away from the screen, revealing the details of her small, blue-suited body. The Navi struck a cheesy pose with one hand on her hips and another in a V across one eye. "Nice to meet you!" Ship said with a wink.

Lyn stood there staring for a second, her jaw working as she began to consider what she was about to put up with. Great, a little girl... always the most fun to work with. The dope wants a cute Navi that can fight and doesn't bother to consider how the personality naturally conflicts with violence... damn sh*theads that get off on making Navis like these... well, it's nothing I haven't worked with before, so I'll just back up for a second-

"Oh, I'm too close, aren't I?" Ship added with a small giggle. "Let me back up a bit..."

Lyn's tight working jaw fell a bit as her Navi began to become dwarfed in the view of the screen. As the display kept scrolling back farther and farther, first a smokestack, then the deck of a ship, and finally the entire body of a miniature-scaled cruise ship many times as big as the little girl finally came into view. Lyn's careful and practiced hand was the only thing that kept the pipe from falling to the ground as it slipped from her mouth. "H-holy sh*t... you're a god-damn boat."

"Part of me, yes," Ship responded mildly, continuing to smile as the display zoomed back in on her face.

"Sh*t. Okay." Lyn rubbed her temples and gritted her teeth together as she contemplated her situation. "Okay. Sh*t. Sh*t." Her right hand moved to her mouth and she began biting one of the fingers.

"I-is something wrong... miss...?" Ship began a bit awkwardly, but still carrying her decent grace through the question.

"Sh*-" Lyn began again before acknowledging the strange Navi had asked her a question. "Oh. Lyn, Lyn Clarke. Call me Lyn, no more of this Miss stuff. If I hear Miss Clarke one time you're gone, got that?"

"Oh, yes ma'am, Lyn." Ship replied with a bow.

"No, no ma'am," Lyn growled. "Just Lyn, got it?"

"Um, right. Lyn." Ship responded, apparently not offset by her Operator's demeanor.

"All right, let's get this straight first off," Lyn said, taking a draw from her pipe and talking with smoke drifting from her mouth as though to make a point. "I'm a Navi trainer, got that? I ain't a Net Op and I don't wanna be. I don't want a Navi of my own. That means, starting right now, I officially hate your guts. You're like the guy who was just here walked up and took a sh*t on my PET. That's what we are to each other right now, okay?"

The Navi was quiet for a moment as she seemed to consider this. "Oh, but Lyn," she suddenly piped up, "We've got a month together and during that time, I'm going to make you love me!"

"Wha-" Lyn responded, taken aback and setting her teeth together. "Are you seriously giving me that bullcrap?" Lyn spoke through her teeth now, her normal menace unable to hide the fact that she was clearly the uncomfortable one.

"There's no... um... nonsense about it!" Ship replied, stepping around Lyn's choice of words. "By the end of this month, I'll be your irreplaceable Navi and you my Operator and good friend! You'll see."

"Huh. That so," Lyn said, sliding back into her regular posture and mood. "Heh, all right then. I'm game. But I'll warn you," Lyn said, leaning into her screen as though she could scare her Navi by proximity, "I've done month-long stands with Navis before. Ain't one of them ever gotten closer to me than I wanted, and the closest I want a Navi I train is under my boot. Let's just see what happens, eh?"

"Yes ma- er, Lyn!" Ship responded with a tight nod.

"Heh... love it already, sh*t sh*t damn it to hell sonnuva-" Lyn trailed off as she left the bus station and returned to the park to find a jack in port.
Lyn realized she'd missed the bus she'd been waiting for while she was caught up in virus busting. "Damn, I really didn't expect it to take that long..."

With her Navi currently safely out of view in her PET, Lyn took a moment to collect her thoughts. Despite her opposition to it initially, she had ended up agreeing to train Ship. This was a significant step closer to herself than she'd intended to allow the Navi to come. At that rate, Lyn figured, it could be just a matter of a week before Ship really had convinced her to become a full-time operator...

"F*ck that!" Lyn muttered under her breath, her complaint almost growing to a whine in its pitch. It actually couldn't happen, she told herself. If she was aware that her Navi was trying to get buddy-buddy with her for whatever reason, couldn't she stop it from happening?

No, she decided as the doors of the bus opened before her. What had that fat guy told her? That Ship was some kind of advertising Navi? Lyn didn't have much to do with TV media as a rule, but she allowed herself a preconception towards advertisements in general: they were all obviously sleezy b*stards with whom honesty was a last resort in getting their way. Misdirection was the name of the game with them: when she figured she knew what they wanted, that was exactly what they wanted her to think.

Lyn took a seat on the mostly empty bus, wondering again at how late it had gotten. "Sh*t. F*ck. Sh*t." Lyn continued to mutter to herself as she crossed her arms and tapped her foot. "Damn misdirection. Damn all that nonsensical bullsh*t. I'm Lyn f*ckin' Clarke! If I say I'm a Navi trainer, than I'm not gonna have a Navi, dammit!"

Realizing that her voice had raised, Lyn decided to quiet down. This was not out of any courtesy to the few others on the bus, but simply because she didn't feel like bothering with whatever opposition they might raise. "I'm just training her for now," she muttered, leaning back in her seat and puffing away at her pipe pensively. "In a month, I'll go take her back to Aloha Tie Guy and get back to my training. If it's a good run, I'll use it as a success story for advertising."

And so Lyn, desperate to stop her Navi from influencing her, considered the situation between Ship and herself all the way back to her house.