Molly has taken Case to a room in the Chiba Hilton Hotel. She suggests he drink a cup of coffee, and he obliges. When Armitage, Molly’s boss, enters the room, he startles Case, who swings his mug at him but misses. Unfazed, Armitage begins his spiel. Case notices Armitage wears an earring, which he recognizes as belonging to men in the Special Forces.
Although Molly has done her best to put him at ease, Case is still on edge—a mixture of his newfound fear of death, and his constant ingestion of drugs. Although Case knows nothing about Armitage, his earring suggests a high-powered, military background.
Armitage offers Case a deal—he says they’ve made a profile of Case that says his reckless behavior will probably kill him in a month, and if it doesn’t, he will need a new pancreas within a year. Armitage promises Case he can correct his neural damage, if Case will agree to work for him as a jockey. Case doesn’t believe him, but listens to the terms of their hypothetical contract anyway.
Armitage and Molly often rely on profiles to get a sense of the people they’ll be collaborating with. This profile tells them that Case desperately misses the matrix, and that he’s passively killing himself. This means that he will be easy to manipulate into working for them, if it means he’ll get his nervous system repaired.
The next day, Sunday, Molly takes Case to a clinic in Chiba. He has decided to work with Armitage in exchange for reconstructive surgery. As they wait outside, Molly explains Armitage is paying for the surgery with the new program he’s brought them to use to fix Case’s nervous system. Case is nervous, and makes small talk with Molly. Molly stays it’s funny talking to Case; because of his profile, she feels like she already knows him. He doesn’t like this.
Case was addicted to the matrix and so will do anything to jack back in. Luckily, Armitage has technology that can fix him. Case’s fear is not that he will die on the operating table, but that the surgery will not work, and he’ll remain trapped in the body he hates. Once again, Molly references Case’s profile, which reduces him to a predictable set of behaviors.
Molly has worked for Armitage for a few months, but when Case presses her for information, she explains she’s just a working girl with no true allegiance to her boss. She explains, “What I always think about first, Case, is my own sweet ass.” Still, she discloses that Armitage is newly wealthy, and she suspects the money is coming from his employer, but she doesn’t know who it is. The anesthesiologist interrupts them, ushering Case inside.
Molly takes pride in her work, but her investment stops there—her identity (and body modifications) are deeply tied to her job as a bodyguard and killer for hire, but beyond her professional obligations, she has no loyalty to her bosses or interest in their lives.
Case wakes up on Wednesday, three days later. His neck and spine hurt. Molly is lying beside him in a coffin in Cheap Hotel. Seeing that he’s awake, she passes him water. He sits up groggily, explaining, “I gotta punch deck.” She laughs and explains he can’t hook himself up to the matrix for eight days at least, allowing his nervous system to heal.
Case is obsessed with the idea of getting back into the matrix. His love of cyberspace is a clearly an addiction—his first thoughts after waking up from invasive surgery are not about this own wellbeing or the surgery’s success, but about when he can get his next fix.
Case wonders why Molly isn’t with Armitage, back in the Hilton, and she straddles him in response. They begin to kiss and then have sex. Case describes his orgasm as “flaring blue in the timeless space, a vastness like the matrix, where the faces were shredded and blown away down hurricane corridors…”
Even as he connects physically with Molly, Case can only compare the experience to something he loves more than sex—jacking into the matrix, which, for him, is the most positive experience there is. Having sex seems to be less about connection (they’ve known each other only a few days) and more about satisfying personal needs.
The next day, Case goes to talk to Julie. Molly follows along, under order to watch him. Case wants to see Julie, and lies that he has “tight friends” who might “die” if he doesn’t talk to them privately. Molly correctly guesses Case just wants to “check us out with your smuggler,” but gives him five minutes.
Although Case and Molly have had sex, he doesn’t fully trust her or Armitage, and wants to protect himself. Case disguises this desire by pretending he has friends he cares for who are in trouble, but Molly sees through this lie.
Julie greets Case with a gun in his hand, explaining he’s “just taking care.” Case wants a history lesson, and asks about Armitage. Julie looks Armitage up on a laptop, but announces Armitage has managed to block himself from Julie’s servers. Case then asks about Screaming Fist. Julie explains it was a cover-up like Watergate—the American government knew about Russian defenses, but sent in soldiers to test new technology anyway.
Although Julie has acted like he cares about Case, it seems that it was just that—an act. By pulling a gun on Case, Julie illustrates that he, like so many others, only cares about himself. Still, he helps Case find out about Armitage. Although Case only has the phrase Screaming Fist, it helps give him insight into Armitage who likely took part in the operation.
As Case leaves, Julie says he spent the war in Lisbon. He wasn’t fighting, and jokes, “wonderful what a war can do for one’s markets.”
Julie doesn’t care that the war killed people; he only cares that it helped his business, which shoes that he lacks empathy and tact.
After seeing Julie, Case finds Wage and pays off the last of his debt with money gifted from Armitage. Case takes Molly to the Chat, and when he takes out an octagon of dex, she informs him that his new pancreas and the plugs in his liver will prevent him from getting high.
Case’s first thought after waking was surgery was that he needed to jack in. Not far behind was the thought that he needed to get high. Drugs and computers are Case’s two addictions, but Armitage knew this because of Case’s profile, and has reconstructed his organs to be immune to Case’s favorite substances.
Molly wants to go see a fight, and drags Case with her to an arena by the water, where holographic representations of two knife fighters loom large over the crowd. Molly is captivated, but Case is uncomfortable, and goes to find some food. As he stands by the food stalls, Case suddenly is overcome by the fear that the operation failed, and he is “still here, still meat,” everything just “some pathetic fantasy.” He begins to cry.
Case hates being “meat.” He also hates the feeling of being trapped in his own body. Cyberspace (and drugs) allow him to escape, which is why he’s become addicted. When Case considers the possibility the operation failed, meaning he’d never jack into the matrix again, he’s filled with despair.
Suddenly, Linda Lee rushes past Case. Reflexively, he runs after her. A boy trips him and tries to stab him, but Molly appears, shooting the boy with her fletcher. Case gets up and begins to walk under the seats of the stadium, looking for Linda. Eventually, he finds her body. He keeps walking until he runs into Molly again. He can hear someone else dying behind her. She announces the fight is over, and that “friends of your tight friend […] killed your girl for you.” Molly explains that when Linda Lee tried to sell the RAM she stole from Case, Julie decided it was easier to kill her than buy the data. She passes Case a “blood-flecked bag of preserved ginger.
Although Case hasn’t treated Linda well, he still cares about her, and running after her is an unconscious reflex. When Molly references Case’s “tight friend,” she’s talking about Julie Deane. Although this reference—and Dean’s signature candy—implicate Julie, Case doesn’t fully internalize for many chapters that his smuggler killed Linda.