Dare and the Will to Acquisition

Dare touched down in the Netsquare in a roaring burst of flames, with her usual outfit on. The Navi grinned for a few reasons: first, she always loved making her entrance; second, with her latest upgrades, she was feeling better (and faster) than ever; and third, she was finally getting to move around a bit without wearing a dress. "One of the less preferable consequences of hanging around with Ante," the Navi noted.

"See anyone yet?" her operator piped up.

"You kidding me? This place is full of people, and Hoodie doesn't exactly stand out in a crowd." With any luck, he would already be looking for her. She wasn't worried about standing out, but she was slightly worried about a Navi's ability to recognize her if they'd only seen her the previous night. Well, the pipes and the hair would probably look familiar after the state of dress she'd ended in, so maybe it'd be all right.

"Huh. All right. Well, while we keep looking, why don't you tell me all about smoochin' with Ante last night?"

"Buh- I already told you, there was nothing like that!" Dare shouted, surprising herself at how riled up she had gotten. "What do you even think a 'fated rival' is, anyhow?! It isn't about making out!" The Navi sighed. She didn't remember everything, but she thought she'd remember if that had happened. "Definitely not... but then, why am I remembering Ante coming on to me?" Dare was almost certain that was something she had fabricated herself. Regardless, she certainly wasn't going to say anything about that. As far as she knew, Ante hadn't been kissing anybody last night.

With that calming fact, the Navi waited to see if Hoodwink would emerge from the crowd. If he did, she might try to invite him from there to the Netsquare to continue their conversation, depending on how sensitive and secretive everything was supposed to be. Really, Dare had no idea.
Dare was busy nursing her foggy memory and trying to remember if she'd done anything regrettable, but the net square was often full of unusual faces, so no-one rally took particular notice of her riled and defensive state. It wasn't until a soft voice by her ear spoke up, that Dare would realise she had been found quite swiftly.

"You knew nothing about where to go, or who to speak to. Nothing about what to look for, or how to seek. All you knew for certain was that you wanted it; and with that alone, you took a step forward." There was a pleased silver of amusement on the voice, but it was unmistakably Hoodwink's. Whether Dare moved to face the voice immediately, or whether Hoodwink himself would need to step around her to bring them face to face, the man didn't speak again until they had proper eye contact.

"And that's good." He was grinning broadly, dressed in the same attire as when Dare had first seen the rogue; dark colours that covered his body and limbs, and a long hooded cloak that had the hood itself down and back, all on a man in his mid twenties with short brown hair, tan skin and a face a little it too pretty for anyone's good. He inclined his head, casting his eyes down for a moment as he put one hand over his chest. Despite the mannerism, his voice had lapsed back into the rougher dialect that he seemed more comfortable with, rather than the proper formality he had shown Ante.

"I hope you're well, Dare. Recovered from an evening of revelry and ready to seize the things you desire with both hands?" If she was still having concerns about his character, Dare might also notice that, just as before, his personal weapons; the slotted sword-breaker on one side, and the short dagger on the other, were still very much present, even in a safe location like the netsqaure. He beckoned with one finger, turning part way to begin walking around the square slowly, with the intent that Dare ought best walk along with him.

"I've watched you since we parted ways and I sent that little feeler in your direction." Exactly what, when, and how he'd been keeping an eye on her went unmentioned as he continued. "It didn't matter how you decided to seek me out; what mattered was that you decided to do it, and so here we are. So tell me, Dare... A man sets you to a task because he believes you cannot do it. He offers you no reward, but simply challenges you to it, because he thinks he can do better than you. Do you take his challenge? What do you get from it when you win? What drives you, Dare? Tell me in your own words..." The square itself was its usual moderate level of business, and two navi wandering about chatting weren't going to look at all out of the ordinary, but given the man's choice of wording, Dare was probably right to guess that he wouldn't get into any of the more sensitive stuff where other people might hear.

In spite of all of the pedestrian traffic around her, Dare felt alone with her thoughts... but only for a few moments longer. As it turned out, the sudden, undetected voice in her ear belonged to Hoodwink. That sensation caused her to recall a different figure from her previous night. Regardless, it was who she'd been looking for, so she smiled briefly.

She kept that same curious smile as she listened to Hoodwink's voice, but tilted her head curiously. The other Navi wouldn't be able to catch her eyes behind her reflective shades, but it was clear enough she was following him intently. That said, Dare was really finding herself wondering what she had gotten herself into. Conceptually, a winner's society sounded all well and good, but the daredevil Navi couldn't help but wonder from Hoodwink's strange conversation opener if she'd stepped into a meeting of the wrong sort of "society."

"Good to see you too, Hoodie. I'd say I'm more or less ready to go, but as to what I'll be seizing... well, maybe we should wait until I have a bit of a clearer idea, okay?" She followed Hoodwink without much notice of his weapons, being focused on his words instead. The Navi's smile momentarily flickered before becoming a small smirk as she listened. "Watching me, eh? What, like... watching Bruce? He's been claiming to have that feeling for a while now, although I think that started before we met. And as for me, I've only been here and to my PET since I left the mansion. Honestly, I hope you weren't been checking me out that whole time! I'm good now, but I was a little ill after party night..."

Dare eagerly moved off of that conversation topic, seeing as Hoodwink's next point seemed to be the meat and potatoes of the discussion, anyway. She returned the cocky grin that was her trademark. "I love to challenge for trophies, but only because I like to have something to show off, later. Trophies and prizes are all secondary to the pursuit of victory. To win, to feel like a winner, and to carry yourself like one... I believe that's something all Navis are capable of, in any situation. It's in the core of my programming. The one who wins is the one who has the greater drive to win, but everyone has the potential to find that drive in themselves. My goal is to lead by example. If people have different expectations of what I am or what a winner should be, it's my life's work to change them. It's also part of my core programming to accept any challenge from anyone, especially if I can pull the challenger off of his high horse in the process. Why, Hoodie? You know somebody with a challenge for me? Someone with a task I can't do, or a bar I fall short of?"

Dare was happy to run her mouth on this particular issue, but truth be told, she was eager to get on to the particulars. If Hoodwink really had somehow been watching her since she'd left the mansion, that meant she probably needed to think twice about the danger in this encounter. The danger for Bruce, too, for that matter... although the stunt man wasn't making any remarks to indicate he was particularly scared for his safety.
Hoodwink chuckled softly along with Dare's initial reactions; it was a soft, amused sound, but clearly a friendly one as well.
"Mm, so I noted. You drank a bit more than you were ready for, I wager. You taxed your body far more than it was prepared to handle, purely because your drive to win demanded it, and hang the consequences after, no? I'm surprised you're looking as hot to go as you do now, to be honest; I've known many to suffer worse and longer for less." Another soft laugh followed before he allowed her to continue, still strolling amiably about the square, hands tucked behind his back. The comment suggested that he had indeed been able to keep an eye on her, even after she left the grounds, somehow, but it proved nothing for certain; the man might just as easily be making a measured guess based on Dare's own words.

He watched her more closely out the corner of his eye as she answered the more important of his questions, and the soft grin turned gradually into a more eager showing of teeth. As a daredevil herself, Dare would probably recognise the expression as one of eager excitement. The look he cast her way bore a twinkle in his eye.

"An excellent answer, Dare... I'm pleased, but consider; many navis are programmed a certain way, and act like that because their code says so, and yet they don't really feel it. Many are programmed a certain way, and don't end up acting as instructed at all, because it simply isn't them. So... Maybe it was in your original design and maybe it wasn't; that's not what matters though. Enough talk about core programming..." He turned slightly and raised one hand, fingers curled except for his first to fingers. He made the gesture slowly, to be clear he wasn't trying anything, then reached out to tap Dare in the middle of the chest, if she let him. It wasn't directed at her more womanly attributes, but simply a tap in the centre and nothing more. "I want to know if that fire you describe is yours, Dare, and yours alone, not simply some whim of coding or program given to you by someone else. That is important."

All told it was an unusual... Job interview? Entrance exam? He hadn't exactly asked her another question, per se, and regardless of whether Dare decided to answer him immediately or not he turned aside as they crossed one of the side ways of the square, moving down a thoroughfare that held notably less people. As he walked, he raised one hand to a point near his eyes.

"Cryptic, you got a terrace branch for me?" There was no answer from whoever he was talking to, but a few moments later, when the street was clear, a section of wall... shifted oddly, twisting the eye a little to look at it. A blink later and it was a small flight of stairs that led up to a vaguely quaint terrace garden with some low seats scattered around, and a pretty impressive view of the area if one looked out. Hoodwink held out a hand to lead Dare up.

"I know it's not exactly legal to make direct base mods to public domain space on the fly like this, but he'll put it right back again once we're done, and I'd like some more privacy before we continue. Unless of course, you would be bothered working with others who might sometimes put their own Will ahead of the technicalities of law." He tilted his head, then winked at her. "None would require it of you, but respect for each to their own pursuit is important, amongst us." The hand was offered, and he waited to see if she'd keep walking forward with him; the overall implication seemed to be that the group he was talking about wasn't criminal, exactly, but it also didn't let legalities get in the way, when they did happen to conflict.

"Yeah, well, if you were watching, I'm sure you realize the road to quick recovery is not sunshine, and it sure isn't roses." Dare was referring to the rather gruesome Purge program Bruce had downloaded for her, which she had since used on multiple occasions to purge alcohol from her system. It got the job done, but there was no other way to describe it than a mirror image of the human process of vomiting. She imagined there were probably more expensive ways for a Navi to do that cleanly, but Bruce wasn't rolling in money to make spur investments like that.

She listened to Hoodwink for a bit, and didn't take offense at his gesture. She hadn't really thought about a Navi's actions which stemmed from a place other than what would classically be referred to as their "core programming." In reality, though, wasn't that just a vocalization of what had always been a key component of her philosophy? Not every Navi was programmed to try and win, obviously, and yet she felt certain each was capable of making that decision. She felt like she was taking a big logic step in taking Hoodwink's words seriously, and yet, she found a clear resonance with her own thoughts. "My fire is mine, Hoodie. I don't need a 'test' to tell you that, but I'll certainly take one if you've got any doubt."

The Navi raised her eyebrows at what Hoodwink seemed to be referring to as a "terrace branch." She didn't know all of the particulars of it, but it was clear to see it wasn't a natural part of the NetSquare. Her acquaintance of the previous night appeared to be in possession of some considerable powers. Still, that didn't constitute a reason to back down, so Dare took his hand and kept onward. "Well, I'm not the type that thinks railing against authority just for the sake of it makes a kid look cool. Protesting the rules just means you haven't found a good way to win within them, after all. That said, it's all about the long term... if your rule-bending gives way to a more exciting game, then why not?"

On the other end of her PET, however, Bruce was trying to think a bit more critically. He didn't want to put a reign on Dare's fun, but this guy was not making a big secret of the fact that he was breaking the law. If Dare didn't report it, her little fun aside for the night was becoming a lot more risky. That said... he couldn't deny that he was curious, as well. "I guess I can just pull her out if this gets too freaky," he thought with a shrug, sipping his beer again and hoping Hoodwink would get to his point sooner rather than later. As much as he might claim to the opposite, the stuntman wasn't much of a creative type, so the significance of an elaborately crafted terrace and the art of building suspense easily flew over his head.
As Dare was walked up the short flight of steps, the visual facade collapsed in behind them, sealing off the entrance and returning it to the original format. This left their little garden as an isolated pocket still comfortably in the netsquare space, but cut off from it at the same time. Dare's communication line to Bruce fuzzed, then statics out completely.

On his end of the PET, unless it was sporting some unusually fancy communication tech, Bruce would find that while both his audio and text communication to Dare had flat-lined once she stepped into the new space, the rest of the connection was unaffected: he could see perfectly well, and still read all her vitals if necessary, and the option to pull her out was still perfectly available to him. He just couldn't tell what was being said, by either party.

Hoodwink raised a defensive hand, open-palmed and soothing towards Dare as he led her in.
"Don't worry. It's just a communication block. It's not a barrier of any sort, for the moment. If you end up joining our ranks, then there will be a question of whether your operator, too, is suitable, and Tracy, my operator, may wish to meet him. If you are to become one of us, but he does not, then there may well be some secrets that you must keep from him. Don't answer, but think on that, and decide how it sits with you. I'm sure you're waiting for me to get to something... meatier, no?"

Hoodwink took a relaxed seat on one of the terrace benches, reclining in an easy pose that still left his weapon hilts less than a few inches from his finger tips. He looked back to Dare, this time locking his gaze with her opaque shades with what was nevertheless a very direct and far more serious eye.

"To it then. We are a small society of individuals who see that the greatest spark for any person, human or navigator, is the drive to attain the things that are important, and the strength of will to pursue that drive without falter or distraction, to possess in one's self a will to acquire that bends before nothing and will not accept being stopped. We come together for our joint betterment, to help one another pursue our individual Wills in whatever form they take. Where we conflict, we do not fight, but set aside, based on a foundation of respect; respect that in that other with whom you disagree rests, all the same, a spark not unlike your own, and a drive to excel in their own actions." He sat forward again and watched Dare closely, reading her face as he continued.

"We are FORFEIT, and to those of ours pursuing their own Wills, all things must eventually forfeit to them, for we are unbending, and unbreakable in our drive." He smirked gently, breaking the tension for a moment. "We have a business acronym, too. It's a bit silly, but it helps smooth certain issues. Legally, we're the "Flexible Ownership Redistribution Fellowship for the Enabling of Inter-societal Trading" A fancy way of saying that what must be ours, inevitably becomes so. While we specialise in acquisitions, we don't generally concern ourselves with legalities except where it's prudent to do so. Zennocracy has probably never broken a law in her life, but I think you'll agree that she's rather far from a nice woman to spend time with. Our intelligence specialist, on the other hand, probably violates half a dozen net regulations before he's finished waking up in the morning. It makes no difference to us. What matters is your Will."

"Understand, Dare; this society holds no allegiance to any other, and if joining yourself to some other faction is a means that serves your end, and that is how you pursue your Will, then so be it... but it is expected that in times of conflict, your loyalty will be with us, and that you will keep our secrets. If that should mean lying to the mafia, or to the police, then still, it is expected that you will keep close our confidence. If you join us, you will have the help of our society in pursuing your Will, and your skills and your drive may be called upon for the betterment of our fellowship as a whole, too; each pools their Will towards this goal of uplifting our fellowship, and there are deeper goals which you are not ready to hear. If you are still eager to join us, we can proceed to your trial, Dare, but first I must have an oath from you." At this point Hoodwink stood again, stepping closer to Dare and drawing both of his weapons calmly. It was obviously not a threatening gesture, and her reversed his grip on each to hold the hilts outward and together towards Dare, palms up.

"Already, I have told you much that should not be shared around. So, whether you decide to join our ranks or not, I will have your oath that what we have discussed so far will not pass beyond this screen." Patently, he intended for her to make the promise with a hand upon his weapons, in a slight variation of a very old-fashioned practice, though whether Dare felt like giving it was the more relevant question. There was still nothing preventing her from simply trying to jack out on the spot, though if she had listened closely to his earlier reassurance about the communication barrier, the 'for the moment' part might be ringing an alarm bell or two.

Dare immediately noticed that her communication lines had been cut. On the other hand, since she hadn't actually been talking to Bruce, she wouldn't be surprised if it took him a moment to even notice he'd lost that functionality.

Hoodwink's reassurance didn't mean much to Dare. It was hard to feel any more relief from that than a cop telling you "they're just handcuffs, for the moment" before hauling you off to be prosecuted. She felt like she was seeing a great deal of technology here that the either the NetPolice or NetMafia would be salivating for if they were to catch a glimpse of it. That said... this was like a game of chicken: if she backed down and got out because the potential danger was getting too heavy, she'd probably never find out what the Will was about. She felt fairly certain she wouldn't be contacted by them again, at least. She wouldn't be the one to blink first.

At this point, the Navi kept a bit of distance, and kept her usual challenging grin frozen on her face. She took some internal notes as he continued, taking stock of what she was being told and still sorting out the information.

She let her grin fall to a small smile at the notion of his oath. She didn't like that she wasn't given much of a choice, but there wasn't really any point in contesting on this. It wasn't like she was in a rush to go whistle-blowing on anything she'd seen today. She held for a moment, raising her eyebrows at the fact that Hoodwink apparently expected her to understand his gesture without being told. Luckily, she got the gist of it, so she placed her hands casually on his weapons. "Right... whether I do or don't take interest in showing up at your party, what we've discussed won't go past this screen. Okay?"

The Navi removed her hands and folded her arms beneath her chest. "All right, Hoodie, I've got a couple of questions to interrupt with. That's not an issue, is it?" She circled slowly around Hoodwink, keeping her eyes on him as she moved. "First of all, you said earlier that if two of you come into conflict, you don't fight, but instead, set aside. But isn't the point of your organization that whatever one of its members wants, it gets? I'm not quite sure I'm understanding what you're describing, there. Elaborate on that one, if you would." She had a lot of thoughts on that particular point, but she thought she genuinely didn't understand exactly what her acquaintance was getting at, there. Best to let him explain in full before running her mouth.

"My second question is a little cliche, but uh... Why me?" The Navi raised her hands in a shrug. She thought she pretty well understood the answer to this question, but she wanted to see how Hoodwink would respond. "I mean, I know, the passion, the drive, all that... What I mean is, why is Ante not here? I'm under the impression she didn't get an invite. I saw the way your eyes sparkled at those rocks she dropped off at our meeting, and I figured that meant she'd delivered the best. Why am I standing here and not her?"
As Dare gave her word, Hoodwink grinned and lowered his eyes politely to her, pleased to have been indulged in what was, in fairness, a very archaic request. He nodded to her, sheathing both weapons and visibly relaxing again, taking a seat and offering the daredevil an open-handed gesture that was obviously the go-ahead for her questions.

He didn't appear to mind her circling around him while she spoke, only turning his head slightly as she passed behind the bench he'd chose and still grinning. When she had marked off her points he nodded, then shifted his position, folding his hands behind his head casually.

"To your first question, Dare.... how shall I explain it? A strong will finds a way to do as it seeks and acquire as it desires; it will not bend or be swayed, and it will never break, but the direct path is not always the only path. In an organisation such as our,s where every member is expected to possess indomitability in their own Will to acquire, any direct conflict between the members would surely tear us apart. True, one would ultimately falter, and one would come away keener than ever before; that's the way any time strong wills clash, after all... but we work for the uplifting of our fellowship as well, and that means not destroying one another." He paused, finding the right words to communicate what he meant to her more clearly.

"Zennocracy's maxim is towards capital. Her Will, is the ultimate truth that truest power comes from currency. CrypticMan, on the other hand, is driven by the Will that finds the truest power in knowledge. Suppose the two came to disagreement over a particular find that they both worked towards without being aware of the other, and at the crux of it, fought; Zenny might view this find as best used for the raw capital it could provide, while Cryptic would be loathe to relinquish it for all that he might learn from it. When it became clear that they conflicted, by oath of our society, they would agree to find the path that best suite both of their Will, and work together upon the matter. Neither would be dissuaded from their pursuit, but nor would they destroy one another in the effort." Hoodwink shrugged, looking thoughtful for a moment, as though he wasn't sure if his example really captured what he meant.

"Each of our members hold as the focus of their Will a different ideology. The true Will to Acquisition manifests differently in each person, and so they value different things in the pursuit of it. Conflicts are rare, and we each strive to avoid them as best we can, while pursuing our own independent goals. If two contest over one point to the extent that they cannot find a path that satisfies them both, the by mutual agreement, the matter is set aside. It is done from respect for one another, and respect that, within the other lies a Will that is every bit as unbreakable as their own. does that make things clearer?"

He seemed to hope it would - despite his fancy talk with Ante the previous night, a well-educated tongue for parties didn't always translate into the skill to actually articulate as clearly as he might like. He turned to her other question instead, chuckling softly.

"As for why... do you doubt your worthiness? I suspect you don't, Dare. We will find out together, if you still wish to, but I think my guess is correct. You must succeed; it drives and spurs you, and you will fight a challenge with every fibre of your spirit. In the heat of the competitive moment, right in the heart of it, there is no other cost you won't pay, no other prize you value more... you will emerge triumphant and victorious, or die trying, and that is what sets you apart. That is my guess, anyway. We will find out. Ante though..." Here Hoodwink winced and sighed softly.

"Ante is a charming lady. Truly she is a dear, but I did not feel in her the driving spark, not for all the time we spent together, as I did for you in just the brief moments that passed between us. she bears herself like royalty, and I sense that a certain part of her feels like it is simply her right. I don't doubt that, as a ruler, she earns every inch of the power she wields; there is a certain fierceness to her, that says she is definitely no figurehead... but it is not the same thing." He shook his head, smiling softly as though thinking on the night before.

"I think there is no small part of her that dearly craves to be whisked off her feet by some charming gallant, and returned to her ideal life. To feel her heart beat so fast when we stood close, and see that tremulous war of emotion and uncertainty in her eyes; unsure of herself, unsure of what she truly wants, unsure whether she dares to seize it or not... No, Dare... Ante is charming, and she is beautiful, in her own way. She is both fierce and strong, too... but this path is not for her."

If Ante had yet to share the full details on her night with Dare, some of the things Hoodwink had said might come as a surprise to her, but either way, the man shrugged softly and moved on.

"Today, I have as much time as you need, Dare, so if there's anything else you'd like to ask me before deciding whether you'll take my trial or not, then ask it. There is no rush in this matter." He stood and stretched, the wandered over to the outlook over the rest of the square, hands folding neatly behind his back. If she had more questions, it seemed like Hoodwink was in a personable mood, but there was little doubt he'd be just as pleased if Dare already knew what she wanted to do and made it clear.

Dare continued to listen without interrupting, throwing in a nod here and a momentary flash of a smile there, but keeping her thoughts internal. When Hoodwink had finally finished her piece, she let a grin break out across her face. "No, I think I get what you mean, Hoodie. In the long run, for your alliance to be able to pool its resources is acknowledged as a greater victory than whatever momentary prize two of you might squabble over. So in the end, if it comes down to it and no bargaining can be done, two members just stop pursuing that thing... because they see that it's for their greater victory in the long run, right?"

The Navi folded her arms behind her head as well, her eyebrows arching behind her shades. "I feel the need to ask, though... has that ever happened before?" Something suggested to Dare (in fact, something secretly hoped) that it hadn't, and that the rule was just a precautionary measure should the situation arise. It sounded like Hoodwink and his associates had built a powerful empire, but it was also easier for her to picture the group tearing itself apart then simply setting aside a target of desire. "If you join this group to get what you want, but you have to give up things you want in return, is that really a victory?" The Navi supposed that was up to interpretation, but she had a feeling she wouldn't be able to make that concession in certain situations.

Dare didn't say anything more about Ante, but she felt confident in two things. The first was that Hoodwink was underestimating Ante's drive. Of course, Hoodwink hadn't seen Ante do the things it took to win that Dare had, so that was understandable. Dare acknowledged that, perhaps with her first rival in particular, she tended to interpret sentiments and gestures as she wanted to be (although Dare most definitely didn't admit the extent to which she did so). Still, even if it hadn't shined through for Hoodwink last night, Dare knew it was there.

The other thing she was confident about was that Hoodwink evidently faced the same issue of projecting his wishes onto the intentions of others. "Hey, you're a hot guy, all right? But I was there last night, and I don't remember seeing you feeling Ante's heartbeat or something like that... Let's not get ahead of ourselves, okay, Casanova?"

Dare gave Hoodwink time to finish if he was going to answer her question about whether a conflict of interests had actually ever resulted in the two parties walking away. When that was finished, she removed her arms from behind her head and held her fists at her sides. "Hoodie, I think you already know what your answer is. Whether I join your party or not, I'm going to take your challenge. I don't deal in 'couldn'ts'. If I end up not joining your group, it's going to be because of a 'wouldn't.' So, why don't you go ahead and let me know what I have to do?"
Dare's interviewer raised one eyebrow with an amused grin that curled one half of his lips and showed a flash of teeth as she asked about whether his organisations 'safety measures' had been called on in the past. He stood straight again and stretched, then turned back around to face her with his arms folded.

"It's more a general understanding, really. More often than not, because we all know and agree to it, we tend to direct ourselves in non-conflicting ways. There has been... one or two cases where one of us has needed to step in and remind others about the rules... and of course, there are the occasional debates of ideology; one may argue that another member's view on where the path to acquiring true power lies, is just a means to obtaining their own Will, and that the other is misguided in valuing theirs so much." Here Hoodwink chuckled. "Fortunately for all of us, a healthy dose of pride seems to come hand in hand with our shared mindset, and that pride usually leaves such arguments content to just disagree with one another, with no shadow of doubt for themselves, or bad blood for the other."

Dare was done with talking, though, and Hoodwink was happy to oblige. He stretched and flexed his fingers.
"Game time then... let's do this. So, Dare, there are two challenges for you. One will be a test of your drive directly, while the other will be a simple pre-requisite that you are free to meet in whatever way your instincts tell you is best. I will tell you the later right now, and then we will move to the former while you think on it. The pre-requisite is simple. It's a minor thing, really, but it's something of a nicety we like to maintain, for effect. One can hardly hold their head high while joining a group so focused on acquisition, without themself being in possession of a PickPocket chip. I myself have many. How you come by it is entirely your own decision, but you must have one; think of it as a membership card. Now... shall we get to the meat of things?"

He grinned and glanced off to the side again, a courtesy while he communicated with someone else.
"We're ready." The words were short, but they were accompanied by a brief glow of light that cleared itself into a homepage uplink, in the centre of the small terrace. Hoodwink stepped between the pad and Dare as it lit up, then inclined his head to her with a grin, spreading his hands open and to the side in invitation, before stepping backwards. The link whisked him away in a standard light beam, leaving Dare to follow behind, presuming she dared.

((Moving To -> Clean Slate))
Dare had gotten the answer she asked for. She wasn't able to get her head around every detail of the explanation following that answer, but she didn't particularly care to pry into it further. By her watch, the time for talking ought to be about over.

The Navi listened to the instructions attentively enough. "A Pickpocket chip, eh...? Heh, I can see Hoodie carrying a bunch of those around. He seems like the type. How to get my hands on one, though... well, even if Bruce isn't typically the virus-busting type, I'm sure I'll manage a way."

She watched as Hoodwink seemed to pull some more strings to make the fabric of the Net do what he wanted. She smiled a bit in spite of herself as her mysterious host made his way into the tear. "Guy knows how to make an exit. Oh well. Nothing to lose..."

Throwing caution to the wind, Dare followed Hoodwink through the link at a brisk pace.
((Return transit from Clean Slate))

Arriving back in the net square, Dare found herself not in the secluded hacked terrace that she'd left from, but simple in a rather mundane, nondescript side alley, with no sign of the patched pathway at all. Hoodwink was beside her, leaning on the wall with a wry smile, but more importantly, she would be relieved to find that all of her arrested PET functions and connections were fully cleared and operational again, and even the communication barrier was gone.

"Well, in this world of information, Dare, can you ever really be completely sure that no-one is watching you? I privacy even really possibly for we navigators in the first place?" Under normal circumstances, or course, one had to presume it was, but it was the only answer Hoodwink seemed to be giving — that was no guarantee at all that they wouldn't still be keeping tabs on her in some way. Whether this meant that creepy information specialists would be watching her bathe or not was a decision Dare would need to make for herself.

"Regardless, it is with much sorrow that I bid you good day, Dare. Perhaps our paths will cross again in the future, but let me give you this as well, just as thanks for your time, and for trust me enough to play our little game." He pushed himself off the wall so he could face her properly, then tossed a small crystal across to her; a quick scan would reveal that it contained some refreshingly straight, honest currency. "Until next time." He inclined his head to her one more time, flashed a brief grin that showed one side of his teeth, and winked at her, then turned and walked away, to disappear between the variety of other navis moving to and fro across the centre of the square. In moments the man was gone.

((Dare receives an additional 3000z. FXP may be taken or discarded as desired:
Hoodwink: 6 FXP
Logos: 3 FXP
CrypticMan: 2 FXP))

Dare shook her head to clear the static of her strange transition. As a Navi, she was used to instantly transporting herself from location to location, but having it done that way was no familiar thing. Hoodwink came into her vision again, and she became aware that her user interface was functioning completely again. Using her two-way monitoring function, she could see Bruce wasn't at his PET, for whatever reason. She knew Bruce wouldn't be able to see what she'd been up to with the comms disruption from earlier, but it still irked her to think he hadn't walked off and left his non-functional PET on the table next to his beer.

The Navi put that aside and gave Hoodwink a wry smile as he gave little reassurance in response to her joking concern. She caught the tossed prize with a deft hand: although she hadn't been expecting an additional prize, she certainly wasn't going to say no. "Thanks again, Hoodie. You get another challenge, you know where to find me, I guess," she added with a shrug.

As her partner in the epic struggle disappeared, her more familiar partner re-emerged. "Oh hey, you're back!" Bruce said, raising the PET and stifling a burp. "What the heck? When my PET went dark I had no idea what to do. I was digging through drawers for that instruction booklet, no idea if I kept it... I count on you for that stuff! What happened?"

"I just cut comms," Dare replied. It was only a half-lie... after all, she hadn't protested the communication being cut. "It's something Navis can do, Brucey boy! Did you do okay without me? Figure out how to change the channel on the tube yourself?"

"Pfft, that's what I get for worrying about you," her operator sighed, plopping back down on his couch and turning the PET so she could watch too.

"Sure is," Dare agreed with a wide smile, exiting the Net to return to the comfort of her PET and kick her feet up.

((Jacking out))