Dixie connects Case to Armitage, who is phoning in from the ship next door. Armitage looks “utterly crazy.” He asks if Case has seen Wintermute, and if he appears as General Girling. He then disconnects. Case tells Dixie to look General Girling up. He then flips to Molly’s simstim.
Armitage’s mask has begun to slip—by mentioning General Girling and the war, he reveals that some of Corto’s memories are bubbling to the surface, which, if he was in his right mental state, should remain repressed.
Molly waits in the steel ceiling beams above a large hanger, waiting for a guide. A Braun microdrone, a small robotic spider controlled by Wintermute, approaches her, and leads her up a ladder. As Molly climbs, she talks to Case, telling him she had always expected to die on this mission, that’s she been “on a bad roll for a while,” and Case is the only good thing that’s happened to her recently. Case notices that Molly’s broken leg has begun to hurt.
Like when Molly told Case about her ex, she’s begun to reveal details of her personal life because she is afraid. The pain in her leg and her “bad roll” make her worry that she’ll die on this mission, and cause her to reach out to the only real emotional connection she has to the world.
A message flashes in the corner of Molly’s vision for Case from Dixie. He explains General Girling trained Corto for Screaming Fist, and that Wintermute has been appearing to Armitage/Corto as Girling. The fact that Armitage is mentioning Girling at all means Armitage/Corto is beginning to lose his mind.
The construct that is Armitage is splintering. Corto is reemerging, but, unfortunately, Corto is not a stable personality, and he is not someone at all invested in the success of this mission.
Case jacks out. Back on the Garvey, Maelcum informs Case that Armitage/Corto is acting weird and giving orders about some war. Aerol and Maelcum talked to the founders, who want them to cut and run. Maelcum says he’ll take Case with him. Case considers it—but he also thinks about the toxin sacs in his blood, and about Molly. He tells Maelcum that he can’t leave Molly behind. Maelcum wonders if they’re together romantically, and Case says he doesn’t know. Still, he wants to help her. He suddenly becomes angry and tells Maelcum, “I’m stayin’ right here.
Aerol and Maelcum both are more loyal to their founders than they are to Wintermute or Armitage, and so want to save themselves. Still, Maelcum is a kind man, and wants to save Case as well. Case considers this, but in the end decides he needs to complete his mission. He partially worries about the toxin sacs in his blood, but more than anything he worries about Molly, who he has come to care deeply about.
Maelcum smiles, and tells Case Maelcum owns his boat, and so can make his own choices. He’s going to stay and help, and will call Aerol and convince him to help too. Case tells Maelcum that he doesn’t understand him, and Maelcum says he doesn’t understands Case either, but says “we mus’ move by Jah love, each one.” Case jacks in.
Case and Maelcum don’t understand each other, but in the end they have the same motivations—Case cares about Molly and wants to help her, and Maelcum respects human (and divine) kindness and love, and so will help Case with his mission.
In the matrix, Dixie tells Case that Armitage/Corto wiped his Hosaka, almost wiping Dixie and Case’s computer as well. Dixie passes on information from Wintermute, he told him most Tessier-Ashpools are in cold sleep. 3Jane is the only one awake in Straylight. The other two who were awake are either dead (Ashpool), or back on earth (8Jean). 8Jean was informed of Ashpool’s death through lawyers who monitored a medical implant, and is on his way back to Straylight. He’ll return at 9:00pm, cutting it close, as the Kuang is supposed to penetrate the T-A core at 8:30.
The protagonist’s heavy use of technology is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, if Corto had successfully wiped both his computer and Case’s, the mission would be over, as the ability to jack into cyberspace is so crucial to this mission. However, Wintermute’s near omniscience, made possible by the fact that it is a machine, proves helpful again and again.
Armitage/Corto’s insane face pops up in front of Case. He’s video calling from the other ship. Armitage is gone, and Corto is all that’s left. He believes he’s still in the war, and orders Case around like he’s a foot soldier. Case wonders where Corto was hidden away, during those years after Wintermute built up the façade of Armitage.
Case has already recommitted to the mission, but understands he must go on without Armitage’s guidance. Armitage’s façade has totally crumbled, and Corto is mentally ill. Armitage allowed Corto’s body to live a relatively normal life, but now, without any coping mechanisms, he’s out of control.
Corto wants to escape. He thinks he’s in an airplane, and so can eject himself, however, he’s in space and will surely die. Case recognizes this and tries to get Corto to open the lock between their two ships. When Corto abruptly ends the call, Case can only think of his toxin sacs.
Corton’s newly revealed personality is not only a danger to the mission but a danger to himself. However, Case thinks more about his own life—and his own toxin sacs—than Corto’s continued wellbeing.
Case jacks out, and Maelcum helps him put on a vacuum suit and cross the gangway from the Marcus Garvey to Corto’s Haniwa. Maelcum helps open the lock, and pulls Case inside the other ship. They make their way through the ship to the bridge. The pass the Japanese pilot, whose throat Corto has cut. Case turns to the dead Hosaka, which Corto blasted with a laser.
Corto’s mental break has rendered him a danger to himself, to the mission, and to others. It is increasingly clear that he cannot be saved from himself and his memories, and, more importantly, that he does not want to be.
Maelcum points out that the bridge is an escape pod, and it is counting down. However, the seal isn’t working, and so Corto will die if he takes off. Panicked, Case tries to open the door to the bridge. Corto talks to him through the door, but won’t open it. He says “one of us have to get out. One of us has to testify.” Case screams and even cries, but he’s unable to do anything. Maelcum, checking a wall monitor, tells Case that Corto is gone. The hatch separating the escape pod from the rest of the ship was slightly open, meaning that it shouldn’t have been able to eject, given it would not be airtight and Corto would die. However, Wintermute overrode the ejection failsafe, allowing Corto to launch even though it was unsafe.
Wintermute sees that Corto has become a liability. Wintermute, in the end, only cares about its mission, and has no loyalty for those who are no longer useful. Seeing that allowing Corto to live would be an inconvenience at best, Wintermute helps Corto launch his escape pod, even though the pod is faulty, and launching it will (and does) lead to Corto’s death.