Molly and Case easily pass though customs into Freeside. Freeside is a giant tube, and sunlight shines from the center, an illusion of the “recorded blue of a Cannes sky.” He knows intellectually that past the sky, on the ceiling, are more buildings and lakes, but “it made no sense to his body.”
Freeside is essentially once enormous optical illusion, and even though Case knows this to be true in his mind, his body gets motion sick from the contrast between what he sees and how he feels.
Molly and Case check into the Intercontinental hotel. From his balcony, Case watches three French teenagers hang-glide. Molly comes up beside him, mentioning that “we were gonna come here once,” but when Case asks “we who?” she shuts down, and goes to bed.
Molly's comment here hints that she's hiding details about her past from Case. It's unclear who she's referring to when she says that "we were gonna come here once," and the fact that she shuts down when Case presses her about it implies that there are facets of herself that she doesn't want Case to know about.
Case struggles to sleep, mulling over his encounter with Wintermute, and Linda’s death. He thinks of Deane’s ginger candies, and realizes Deane ordered Linda’s death, probably manipulated by Wintermute, who had confessed he “took advantage of existing situations.” He considers Deane could have acted alone, but also considers how Wintermute remade Corto into Armitage. He is a strong and subtle manipulator.
Upon seeing Linda’s body and Deane’s ginger candies nearby, Molly immediately understood Deane had ordered Linda Lee’s death. Case is only beginning to understand that now, after seeing Wintermute inhabit Deane’s body. He wonders if Wintermute manipulated Deane into killing Linda—perhaps to hurt Case, or to convince him to leave Chiba.
Case finally falls asleep and dreams of a summer when he was fifteen, living with a girl named Marlene. Wasps built a nest on their windowsill, and Case tried to kill them with a flamethrower, which only knocked the nest into an alley floor below, irritating but not killing the wasps. Case goes downstairs, and is horrified to see the “alien” “birth factory” of unborn and juvenile wasps inside the split open hull of their colony. He uses his flamethrower to burn it to a crisp. Waking up in his hotel, Case realizes the wasp nest in his dream bore the T-A logo of Tessier-Ashpool.
Wintermute will later reveal it forced Case to have this dream in order to make him think about the Tessier-Ashpool family as a kind of wasp nest that needs to be destroyed. The dream is based on a real memory of Case’s, and Wintermute hopes the emotions triggered by that memory can be somehow transferred.
Molly covers Case in bronzer to help him blend in with other tanned Freeside tourists. It doesn’t look real, but she explains, “it looks like you care enough to fake it. Over breakfast, Case tells Molly about his near-death experience with Wintermute. He explains it felt totally real, gesturing to the world around him he explains “real as this […] maybe more.”
Many of the tourists in Freeside are tanned, and so Molly wants Case to not stand out as a nocturnal console cowboy, instead looking more like a leisure seeker. Here, identity is manipulated for safety. Additionally, Case confirms Wintermute’s constructed world felt real, although he knew it was not.
Riviera and Armitage arrive. Riviera asks Molly for more “medicine,” which she threatens to withhold. Armitage tells her she must give it to him, as Armitage has an important “audition” later in the day. Molly’s assignment for the day is to work out in the low gravity at one end of Freeside, while Case is going to buy a vacuum-sealed space suit and return to Maelcum’s ship.
Riviera’s drug addiction puts him at Molly’s mercy. This passage implies that Riviera can still do his job on drugs—and maybe can do it better than when he’s sober. In contrast, Armitage suspected Case’s addiction would only be a liability, which Case proves true later in this chapter and in the next.
Back on the Marcus Garvey, Maelcum gives Case a steel cassette that a man delivered to him earlier in the day. Case recognizes it as a virus program, but he doesn’t know much about it. He plugs it into the Hosaka, who informs him it’s called Kuang Grade Mark Eleven, and is a Chinese “penetration program” capable of penetrating “existing military systems and artificial intelligences.” The Hosaka also informs him that, several steps up the ladder, Tessier-Ashpool owns the virus.
Tracing the virus back to the Tessier-Ashpool family suggests that Wintermute has sent Case this virus in order to allow him to free it from the shackles placed upon it. Unsurprisingly the Tessier-Ashpool family owns the only available virus powerful enough to break through its own defenses, and Wintermute, crafty and dedicated, has gotten ahold of it.
Case jacks in to talk to Dixie. He lays out what he knows—that Wintermute and the Rio AI connect through Straylight somehow, and Wintermute is “burning itself,” all while trying to get on Case’s good side. Dixie explains that with an AI, there’s a “real motive problem,” Still, Dixie suspects Case is cutting through limitations placed on Wintermute, giving it autonomy. Case considers this, and slots in the virus anyway so Dixie can learn about it.
Unlike with humans, of whom profiles can be made, and whose behavior is fairly predictable, Wintermute’s motivations are far murkier. Dixie, now half a computer, understands better than Case how slippery Wintermute is. Still, they understand that Wintermute wants the kind of power not normally afforded to AIs.
Case returns to his hotel. He wants to get high, and wanders up to the hotel roof, where he meets Cath, a local who has been swimming in the pool. Case introduces himself as Lupus. She wonders if he’s a gangster, but he tells her he’s a drug addict. He wants stimulants, but only ones his body can process. She says she has some: betaphenethylamine.
Case is stressed by his mission and longs to get high. Although his body has been modified, his brain has not, and he still has the same addictive thought patterns as before, which seek out substances to dull uncomfortable emotions.
Back in her hotel room, Cath’s partner Bruce gives Case a derm. Despite his modified liver and pancreas, it works. Case returns to his hotel room extremely high. Molly chastises him, and warns him that if the drug can get past his modifications, the comedown will be brutal. Case doesn’t mind. Instead he undresses and climbs into bed with Molly.
Although his body is blocked from his drugs of choice, Case remains an addict with addictive thought patterns and a desire to get high. Unlike Armitage, Molly has no real investment in Case’s sobriety for the sake of their mission, but worries about him as a friend and partner—knowing he will have an awful hangover.