Molly, Case, and Armitage fly to the Sprawl, Case’s home, via Amsterdam and Paris. Case wakes up in a sterile apartment, lying on a mattress next to Molly. He gets up and examines a bag to find his European purchases. On top is a paper-wrapped shuriken. Molly, who has woken up too, tells him it’s a gift from her.
Molly’s gift of a shuriken is a way to show Case that she’s on his team. It also symbolizes a new beginning, more so than their sexual encounter in the previous chapter. Case is out of Chiba, and he is beginning a new phase of his life.
Later in the day Armitage arrives. He plans to hire someone to secure the room. Case observes Armitage’s face, which he describes as “handsome,” if “inexpressive,” and “a conservative amalgam of the past decade’s leading media faces.” His whole face is like a “mask.”
Case suspects there’s something strange about Armitage. He’s clearly had extensive plastic surgery, designed to make him look as inoffensive (while still authoritative) as possible.
Case asks if Armitage was ever a cop or security guard, but the man doesn’t answer. Case explains that giving him a new pancreas and modifying his liver seems like “a cop routine.” Armitage turns to Case and tells him he’s lucky Armitage helped him, but that Case has only replaced one dependency with another. During surgery, Armitage put “fifteen toxin sacs” into the lining of Case’s arteries. Each sac contains the same mycotoxin that ruined Case’s life years before, and is slowly dissolving. After his job is complete, Armitage will inject Case with an enzyme that will release the sacs and allow Armitage to remove them via blood transfer. Otherwise, Case’s nervous system will be destroyed again. Armitage explains that Case needs Armigatge now as much as when Armitage found Case in Chiba.
Based on Case’s profile, Armitage knows that Case doesn’t have much professional loyalty and generally only looks out for himself. So, to insure Case will continue to be a good, dedicated employee, Armitage is blackmailing Case. His nervous system will only last long enough to complete the job, and only if he completes it successfully will he be able to keep the ability to jack into the matrix. Formerly hooked on stimulants, now Case is hooked on Armitage—he needs him in order to save his nervous system.
Case and Molly go outside to sit in the sun. Case asks if she knew about the toxin sacs, and she claims that she didn’t. He asks what’s motivating her, and she responds, “profession pride, baby, that’s all.” She suggests they get breakfast, and they board a subway to Manhattan.
After breakfast, Molly takes Case through a series of bars and clubs on the East Side of Manhattan, ending in a sterile white room at the end of a tunnel of electronic waste. The Finn, a middleman and friend of Molly’s, meets them in the room. Molly asks him to scan her and Case for any implants. Only Molly’s voluntary implants show up, and Case’s scan is totally clear. He still the has the toxin sacs, but there’s nothing mechanical in his body.
Molly has begun to care about Case. Although her job is to watch him, her interest in him goes beyond her job description. Although she wants to check and see if she’s been modified against her will in some way, she also has Case scanned, which is an act of goodwill.
Molly dismisses the Finn but stays in the room with Case. She tells him she’s had a look at their to-do list; their next mission is stealing a construct of Dixie Flatline from the company Sense/Net to help their with their next mission. Although she’s working for Armitage, Molly doesn’t fully trust him. She knows he must be working for someone, but she doesn’t know who. She also doesn’t understand why they’ve spent so much money on Case, and why they’re pulling off a heist for the digital ghost of a dead console cowboy.
Although Molly constantly reiterates how loyal of an employee she is, she remains suspicious of her boss. Her suspicion, however, doesn’t mean she won’t do her job, instead it means she’ll do extra work on top of that to figure out what the larger mission is. Not unfairly, Molly wonders why Case was so essential to this mission, given how much the intellectual property they traded for his surgery was worth.
Case wonders again what Molly has “dissolving inside” of her. Molly explains that she’s loyal, and doesn’t need to be blackmailed. She explains, “anybody any good at what they do, that’s what they are, right?” Just like Case has to “jack,” she must “tussle.”
Molly explains that she is her work. She doesn’t need additional motivation to stay loyal—her job is all she has. She loves to fight (or “tussle”) just like Case loves to jack into the matrix, and so, for her, the privilege to do that is enough to make her loyal to her employers.
Molly explains she hasn’t been able to find out much about Armitage. No one with his name took part in Screaming Fist, but she hopes Case will have better luck. Case wonders what else is on the to-do list, other than Dixie. Molly says Peter Riviera, who is a “real ugly customer,” according to his profile. Molly asks if Case wants to be her partner; he realizes he has no choice.
Molly knows Armitage is somehow lying to her, but she doesn’t know the extent. However, she has looked at the profiles of the other people recruited for their mission, and hates one, Riviera, already. Case understands that, whether or not he trust Molly, she has power over him, and for his sake, he needs to cooperate with her.
On Wednesday, eight days since he woke up in Cheap Hotel after his surgery, Case sits on the floor in his new apartment in the Sprawl. It’s time for him to jack in. As he stares at the deck in his lap he sees the shuriken in the shop window back in Chiba, and looks up to see the gifted shuriken on the wall. He closes his eyes and turns on the deck.
Here, the shuriken represents Case’s new life—a new start in a new city with a new nervous system. He desperately hopes he will be able to log into the matrix.
Slowly, “symbols, figures, faces” appear. Case prays as a gray disk appears in his vision, prays as it expands. Suddenly, he is in his “distanceless home, his country,” the world of the matrix. Back in the loft he laughs and cries.
Five hours later, Case takes the electrodes off and returns to the loft. Someone is requesting entry to the loft, and he lets them in. It’s the Finn, who introduces himself as though they’ve never met. Molly told him this would happen, and so Case plays along. The Finn explains he’s doing hardware for Armitage, and delivers a black rectangle—a “flipflop switch,” which, when plugged into his computer, allows him to access Molly’s simstim. Molly is being fitted with a broadcast rig later, and this technology will allow Case to ride along in her brain.
Case loves cyberspace so much that he doesn’t notice the time pass. Although the Finn and Case have met before, Case promised Molly to play her game, and so acts as though the two are strangers. Case isn’t loyal to Molly because he loves or trusts her, but he feels he has no other choice and that by aligning with her, he will protect himself. This is a relationship that will change and evolve.