At dinner that evening with Armitage and Molly, Case has the worst hangover of his life—his hands are shaking, and his brain is “deep fried.” Armitage recognizes that something is off, but Case lies and claims it’s something he ate.
Case’s addiction makes him a liability, and helps explain why Armitage thought it was so important to modify his liver and pancreas.
Armitage has arranged dinner so they can watch Riviera’s “audition.” He is performing a “holographic cabaret,” which, he announces as he appears on stage, is called “The Doll,” and is dedicated to Lady 3Jane Marie-France Tessier-Ashpool “and to another lady.”
Riviera’s holographic audition, although made up of illusions, will hopefully have real-world results—based on what he, Armitage, and Wintermute know about 3Jane, the program will be designed to get her to invite Riviera into her home.
Riviera performs a one-man holographic show. He projects a worn-down room, with a wooden chair and iron bedstead. In the show he constructs a (holographic) woman, who appears limb by limb—arms, feet, legs, all disconnected. When a torso appears, Case realizes Riviera has created Molly’s body, and then her face, complete with mirror eyes. Riviera moves to the bed, and begins having sex with his projection. The projection of Molly extends its blades, and begins to tear Riviera apart. Case rushes out of the room to vomit over a railing. He misses the ending but guesses it: “Riviera puts the dreamgirl together, the dreamgirl takes him apart.” Case returns to see the real Molly has disappeared.
Riviera’s performance is designed to be disturbing and titillating, intended to capture the attention of 3Jane, a member of the Tessier Ashpool family, whose tastes Armitage, Wintermute, and Riviera have explored. However, Riviera also intends to disturb and offend his coworkers—specifically Molly who he seems to lust after but also resent. Although not technically real, his show is disturbing, and creates real emotions of disgust and distress in Case and Molly.
Case asks Armitage where Molly has gone, but Armitage doesn’t answer. Case asks why Riviera did that to her, but Armitage just tells him to get some sleep. Their run is the next day, and he has to prepare. Armitage leaves, and as Case lingers, he notices a woman in a private booth—3Jane. As he leaves the restaurant, he notices the three French teenagers again.
Armitage is uninterested in Molly’s mental health or emotional wellbeing. He knows she is a professional and trusts her to do her job regardless of how she is feeling. Case, meanwhile, cares about Molly as a friend and as a sexual partner, and wants to help her.
Case returns to his empty hotel room and calls Maelcum, asking to be connected to Dixie. Speaking through the Hosaka voice chip, Case notices the Dixie’s “carefully engineered accent [is] lost entirely.” He asks the Dixie to find Molly for him. Dixie announces she’d registered at the hotel under the name Rose Kolodny but has since checked out. He tells Case it will take a few minutes to track her down.
Dixie sounds human in cyberspace, but he sounds mechanical through the voice chip, reminding Case that, as human as Dixie seems, he is living a half-life.
Case waits by the phone, staring out at the glass wall of his balcony. As he watches, the wall, which doubles as an audiovisual screen, comes to life and speaks to him in a voice he recognizes as Lonny Zone’s. Case recognizes this as Wintermute’s work. Lonny Zone’s image appears and begins to talk, warning him that having Dixie search for Molly is “Ringing bells all over Freeside.” Zone/Wintermute admits he’s surprised, since his kind of behavior is “outside [Case’s] profile.”
Wintermute uses profiles of all the people it interacts with to determine their motivations and predict their behavior. This works when people act according to a pattern, but when they break from their profiles, as Case is doing now, they becomes for difficult for Wintermute, a machine who does best with algorithms and patterns, to predict or control.
Zone/Wintermute observes that Case can’t “keep too good track of [his] women,” which angers Case. Zone/Wintermute then admits he killed Linda, but asks how much it really matters, arguing that she stole from Case because she loved him and wanted his attention, and that Case couldn’t handle it, so Linda had to die. Case punches the glass and Zone/Wintermute disappears, first warning him not to hurt his hands. On the phone, Dixie calls out to Case. He has an address for Molly.
Wintermute confirms what Case suspected, that it ordered Linda’s death. Case did love her, even if he didn’t always look out for her, and is upset by the news. Still, Case will continue to work with Wintermute. Wintermute understands that Case is his hands, and his ability as a jockey requires his hands to be in good condition.
Case sits on the bed before looking for Molly. He is experiencing a new emotion: rage. Case finds Bruce and Cath and pressures them into helping him find Molly. The address Dixie gave him is for a cubicle in the basement of a nightclub. He has to take an elevator down, and a woman checks his identification chip before assigning him cubicle 35. Although this is not Molly’s cubicle, Case proceeds there anyway. A girl greets him inside. He registers that “her eyes were soft and unblinking. Automatic pilot. A neural cut out.” He leaves and finds Molly’s room.
Case has spent much of the last few years (and maybe even much of his life) numb, but now, suddenly he is driven by a new emotion that helps him spring into action to find his friend. Molly is hiding somewhere in this brothel, full of women who have turned off a part of their brains, renting their bodies for sex while not participating or remembering.
Case places his chip against Molly’s door, and it miraculously opens. Unsure who has come to see her, Molly attacks Case, apologizing and helping him up when she recognizes her friend. She explains she bought this room so she could prepare for tomorrow’s mission. Wintermute is briefing her from a screen on the wall, and she needed to decompress after Riviera’s performance. She tells Case if she stuck around, she “might have killed Riviera.”
Case will later realize that Wintermute unlocked Molly’s door for him, allowing them to speak. Like Case, Molly was deeply affected by Riviera’s performance. Although simply illusions, they were offensive, and they reminded Molly of her past, details of which she reveals to Case later in the chapter.
Molly explains to Case that Riviera’s performance disturbed her because it reminded her of when she worked as a sex doll. Molly paid for her body modifications by “renting the goods.” She rented out her body, but a cut-out chip prevented her from remembering any sexual encounters.
The sex doll Case saw earlier seemed devoid of personality, but Molly reveals there is a person beneath the cut-out, they’re just buried deeply. These are some of the first details of her past she reveals to Case, further fleshing out her identity.
As Molly got more modifications, they began to interfere with her cut-out chip, and memories from her time as a sex doll bled into her dreams. As unpleasant as this was, she wasn’t “ready to give up puppet time.” Eventually, her employers switched her to “specialty markets.” She only found out when, after an extensive surgery in Chiba, her surgeons knocked her cut-out chip loose and she woke up in the middle of her next session with a client—returning to consciousness in a room with a corpse and a Senator (whose fetish was apparently murder). Upset, Molly killed the man and ran away, hiding from her former employers who put a hit out on her.
Molly’s identity gains clarity given her history. She has always been committed to her work, and therefore committed to the body modifications that allow her to do her job. Even when she started having bad dreams, she reasoned it was worth it to pay for surgery. Only when Molly absolutely could not tolerate being a doll (waking up and being forced to actively participate) did she finally call it off. This is also a rare examples of dreams actually portraying reality and affecting the dreamer, as opposed to other examples of fictional dreams that nonetheless had emotional effects.
Molly finishes her story, explaining Riviera hit a nerve. She thinks Wintermute somehow set up his show, so that she would hate Riviera and be motivated to go in to Straylight after him. She tells Case she’s going to kill Riviera. Case tells Molly about the Lonny Zone and Linda Lee. Molly wonders if Wintermute is trying to get him to hate something, too. Case leaves the club and gets Cath and Bruce to drop him in Freeside’s bar district.
Although Molly would have followed Riviera anyway, as it is her job, she knows Wintermute is doing its best to manipulate them all into completing its plot. Her anger (like Case’s newfound rage), will help propel her forward.