"Owww..." a groggy voice moaned from behind a disheveled couch. The owner of the voice tried to throw a hand over the back of the sofa, missed, then succeeded on the second try. James Tyler pulled himself into a sitting position, one eye closed tight as if to ward off the dazzling slats of sunlight beaming into the room through the slits in ruffled blinds, and looked around as he tried to gather his wits. His living room was simple, though dimly lit at the moment. A single couch, television and computer desk were all that furnished the room, though a surprising amount of refuse had been strewn about since the last time he remembered seeing it.
"Morning, Sleeping Beauty," a dry voice spoke up, breaking the silence. "Nah sho loud..." James groaned, holding his free hand to his ear. His head felt like it was in a vice, and his mouth was dry. "I see we had fun last night..." the voice commented, ignoring the human's feeble protest as the computer monitor flashed into life. Exploit's smirking face illuminated the area around the computer with a pale glow. "Shut it, you..." James grumbled as the pounding in his head subsided a little. I'm still in my clothes... he realized, placing a hand against his chest and the soft fabric of his shirt . A hard lump under his palm told him he still had his ring. He suddenly became aware of a breeze in the room. But not all of them, it seems... He looked around and located his pants unceremoniously draped across the corner of his TV. Pulling himself up further, he half stumbled his way over to them. Only after covering the lower half of his body did he realize that something was missing. Patting around his back pocket, the familiar lumps of both his wallet and his chip case were missing. "Daaammmit!" he swore, frantically upturning what bits of the room weren't already trashed in search of the missing items. He looked back to the head of the cough and saw slip of white paper, folded over and sealed with a kiss. Snatching it up, he opened the letter and only found a short message: "Thanks for the fun. XOXO"
Exploit simply monitored his Net Op as James realized what had happened, and began to laugh at the predicament. "Of all the people to have his wallet lifted..." He began laughing in earnest now. "... the son of a master thief.. HAHAHAHA..." Exploit's image vanished from the screen as he fell over, clutching his sides. At this, James rounded on his Navi, "Hey, my chips were stolen, too! You know what that means, right? That means that you are next to useless on the Net, barely more than a browser! How about that, huh?" he shot with a tone of triumph. But Exploit still continued to guffaw, just below the computer monitor. "You don't get what's so funny," the Navi wheezed, standing back up as his laughter began to die out. "Your wallet was stolen, and you had just cashed your latest paycheck. How exactly do you expect to pay for this wonderful little slice of freedom you've fought so hard to hold onto?" Exploit asked, a grin spread wide across his face. James didn't know exactly what Exploit meant, but soon the memories of last night began to trickle into his mind.
He had asked for an advance on his paycheck from his boss. He was already on thin ice, but his boss had begrudgingly agreed. After cashing the check, he was walking back home, when he passed by a new bar and decided that a drink would be fantastic. After all, he was feeling good for the first time in a while. There was a girl at the bar. A blonde... no brunette... red head maybe? He couldn't remember. They had gone back to his place... His place... "Ah hell..." James said, visibly deflating as he realized the point Exploit was trying to make. Rent was due at the end of the week. And that wallet had contained all of his money. "You know how we can get the money," Exploit smirked, folding his arms across his chest. "Though, you do bring up a point. Without chips it'll be a lot harder," he said, adopting a thoughtful tone, appearing to miss the intent of James' previous outburst. "No. I won't resort to being a thief," James spat. "You mean being what you're meant to be. What runs in your blood?" Exploit retorted. "I am nothing like him!" the Operator roared. "Then don't," Exploit shrugged. "You'll miss rent, again I might add, and be thrown out on the street with nothing but the clothes on your back. Nowhere to go, no means to support yourself, and sooner or later you'll find yourself back in your father's house, under his thumb once again. It's your choice, Jimmy."
As much as he hated to admit it, James had to admit defeat. Exploit was right. He had the skill to get his money, or really any amount he needed. It was simple pride that was stopping him from living in the lap luxury. But it was his life, and he didn't need his father telling him how to live it. "Fine... I'll find a job tomorrow," James growled. "Oh, you think it'll be so easy?" Exploit smirked, his voice exuding playful victory. "There's always someone that wants what someone else has..." James said, walking back to his couch and reaching under the cushions. The one thing he hated about the chip case that had been stolen was its tendency to open without him wanting it to. Moments later, he pulled his arm back out of the couch, a meager three chips all that had managed to escape his pilfered collection. "Well, we're going to need some more tools before this can happen..." he commented, quickly scratching his head as he walked over to the computer, taking a seat in front of his monitor. "Electown Net seems as good a place as any for a browser to find some viruses," Exploit said, a wry smirk still lingering on his face. "I hate you..." James retorted, the ghost of a smirk appearing on his face. "Jacking in."